All the conjecture, rumor, innuendo and educated guessing swirling around Madison Bumgarner would be a simple deal if it wasn’t for Brian Sabean.
Pre-Sabes you simply would say, “Bumgarner is at (or darned near) the top of his game. He’s a horse and a fan favorite. The Giants may be looking at a rebuild. Wouldn’t Bumgarner, 30, currently a free agent, make a dandy foundation? Sign him now so we can all get back to the Warriors tire fire.”
But we can’t say that, and here’s why.
Twenty-three years ago Sabean, in his first year as the Giants general manager and looking at a rebuild, traded fan favorite Matt Williams, 30 years old and close to the top of his game, to the Cleveland Indians. Reaction from the fan base was swift, unsparing and aimed directly at Sabean. It went a little something like this:
“There’s a train leaving town at 6:15. Be under it.”
Whereupon the Giants won the division the following season, in large part due to bounty Sabean extracted from the Indians — Jeff Kent, Jose Vizcaino and Julian Tavarez — and the astute addition of J.T. Snow. It was so unaccountable, this turnaround from 68 wins to 90, that people called it Dustiny, in honor of the fates and manager Dusty Baker.
Back to present. The free agent pitcher market is piping hot right about now. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Zach Wheeler just signed with the Phillies for $118 million. Based on that, Nightingale believes Bumgarner could fetch more than $100 million. Two other prized horses — Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg — are on the market as well. All the aforementioned are in the 29-31 age bracket. Bumgarner has logged at least 400 more innings pitched than the other three.
Nightengale reports that Bumgarner would prefer to stay with the Giants (that would’ve been Williams’ preference in the winter of 1996).
We don’t know how this will play out. Giants’ second-year VP of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi and new general manager Scott Harris have some strategizing to do. Whatever decision is rendered, let history be your guide and afford them the open mind that was denied Sabean.
SEASON PASS DIGITAL OFFER
If you have not already, we strongly encourage you to sign up for a digital subscription, which gives you access to all content on the Mercury News and East Bay Times websites. With your support, we can continue bringing these stories — and much more — to your screens. Here’s where to sign up for the season pass: Mercury News, East Bay Times.