Phillies: Could Madison Bumgarner be an important new piece?

Bumgarner, a fan favorite, isn't the ace he was through 2016. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images.
Bumgarner, a fan favorite, isn't the ace he was through 2016. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images. /

The Philadelphia Phillies need some pieces for their rotation, but would Madison Bumgarner be the right fit?

Let’s see. Is the notion of the Philadelphia Phillies signing a guy whose nickname is actually “MadBum” a good idea after annoying their fans for eight straight years? Nov. 22 the MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweeted that sources had confirmed “reps” for the Phillies and for Madison Bumgarner have at least talked.

Could MadBum be a good fit in Philly? It’s hard to know what to make of that phrase.

Is there any reason to think he wouldn’t fit? Is there anyone who might give the team a decent idea about that? There is. Over there in the corner – or certainly available by phone – is Andrew McCutchen, who was a teammate of Bumgarner’s in San Francisco for half a season. Unfortunately, that season Bumgarner’s pitching hand was fractured by a spring training line drive, and he didn’t get started until early June.

More from Call to the Pen

However, McCutchen is a bright guy, and likely has a shareable opinion but the left-handed pitcher’s clubhouse presence. Other players who have shared a clubhouse with Bumgarner have praised his passion and team commitment. Last July, for example, when the Giants were still technically in the race for a Wild Card, the pitcher threw “a fastball directed at ownership, applying pressure to keep together” what one writer called a “bewildering squad.” Kevin Pillar said at the time, “[F]or him to kind of step up and make a public statement like that is a really cool thing for him to do, and hopefully we can go out there and continue to win games and really back up what he said.”

Of course, Bumgarner has been a career-long Giant, and maybe he wouldn’t feel the same way about the Phillies. Maybe he’d find Jean Segura’s sport shirts annoying, or Adam Haseley’s stoic demeanor too studied. A lot of money would probably take care of that, and there’s no real reason to think the Phillies wouldn’t at least slightly better his $12 million salary in 2019 for several years. The pitcher will be 30 this season.

So let’s move away from the amateur psychology, and examine Bumgarner’s record. First, let’s clear away the injury history for a guy who was until two of the last three years pretty durable and consistent.

In 2017 Bumgarner had a dirt bike accident that limited him that season to just 17 starts. Then in ‘18 there was the fractured hand. At the point at which Pillar praised Bumgarner last season, though, the pitcher was running off a string of 23 innings with a 1.17 ERA.

So, he seems healthy. Overall, in ’19 he threw 207.2 innings, striking out 203 while walking only 43, all figures in line with his All-Star seasons in the middle of the decade. His WHIP last season was 1.127, just a hair above his lifetime figure of 1.111.

And as a selling point, Madison Bumgarner is not an automatic out at the plate like many pitchers.  He has two Silver Slugger awards, and has hit 19 career home runs. He has driven in 5.6 runs a season on average for 11 years.

Therefore, there doesn’t seem any reason the Phillies shouldn’t seriously pursue Bumgarner. He’s still relatively young, and if he can stay off dirt bikes on steep hills, he could be their number two starter next season. Moreover, perhaps as important as any other consideration is the fact he would break up a Phillies rotation that was all right-handed last season.

Next. Phillies profit from 2020 rules change. dark

Of course, there’s still that name thing. If he signs with the Phillies, MadBum can not be a Mad Bum.