There’s what Madison Bumgarner is actually making, what he’s actually worth and how much he might make in his next contract.
Spoiler alert: These three things are all very different.
What’s certain is that the San Francisco Giants have gotten a lot more than they bargained for when they extended Bumgarner in April 2012. The left-hander’s contract guaranteed $35 million through 2017, with two club options in 2018 and 2019 worth at least $12 million and at most $16 million depending on his performance in the National League Cy Young voting.
In five regular seasons since, this has paid for a 2.95 ERA across 1,072 innings. Bumgarner has further earned his cash by helping deliver World Series titles in 2012 and 2014. He won the latter championship pretty much single-handedly.
By Baseball-Reference.com’s version of wins above replacement, Bumgarner has only been the 11th-best pitcher in the league over the last five years. This is somewhere between hogwash and codswallop. He’s at worst a top-10 pitcher and more realistically a top-five pitcher.
And, oh yeah, he’s still only 27.
Pictured: One of only three rings in Madison Bumgarner’s collection.
It would be fun to speculate about what Bumgarner might earn on the open market in any offseason. But such a conversation is especially fun this offseason.
This is not only the winter he would have been a free agent had he not signed his extension but also a winter in which the demand for his services would’ve been elevated by the lack of other free-agent aces.
The total record payout for a free-agent starter is the $217 million David Price got from the Boston Red Sox last offseason. Bumgarner would have beaten that with room to spare, becoming easily the most expensive pitcher in history.
Of course, Bumgarner isn’t a free agent right now. There are thus only two ways he can land a contract more befitting of his talent: He can either ride three more healthy and productive years into free agency after 2019 or hope the Giants come calling with a second contract extension before then.
Not surprisingly, the Giants are very much interested in keeping him.
When the topic of Bumgarner’s future with the club was raised last October, Giants general manager Bobby Evans confirmed to Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group that preliminary conversations had taken place with the Bumgarner’s representatives.
“When they’re interested in talking, we want to make sure we’re available,” Evans said. “But we don’t have a timeline. We want Madison to be here for a long time. At the right time, we’ll address this when his camp is ready to talk.”
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Although Bumgarner is hugely underpaid, the Giants don’t have to hurry to give him a raise.
In all likelihood, the right timeline for extending Bumgarner isn’t imminent.
The Giants are coming off their second straight year over the luxury tax threshold and are slated to be over the threshold again this year. The best time for them to extend Bumgarner would be after 2017, when they’re slated to have a fair amount of money come off their books.
Assuming his $21 million option for 2018 doesn’t vest, it’s a virtual lock the Giants will pay Matt Cain his $7.5 million buyout after 2017. Even more money would come loose if Johnny Cueto opts out of the final four years of his six-year, $130 million contract.
If Bumgarner and the Giants do indeed see a window after 2017, he’d be in a similar position age-wise to Stephen Strasburg when he signed his seven-year, $175 million extension with the Washington Nationals last May. That’s set to begin in his age-28 season in 2017. Bumgarner will be going into his age-28 season in 2018.
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Stephen Strasburg has made more than 30 starts in a season just twice.
Of course, Bumgarner is a better, more durable and generally more accomplished pitcher than Strasburg, so an improvement on his deal would be in order. Say, something more like seven years at over $30 million per year.
While that wouldn’t match Bumgarner’s value on this winter’s market, he’d basically be getting the same going rate as Price, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, who are very much his peers.
However, there’s a rub.
Strasburg was only a couple months from free agency when he inked his deal, so he had some leverage in his talks with the Nationals. Bumgarner will still be two years away from free agency if he negotiates next winter, giving him considerably less leverage.
“You’ll never get your value if you renegotiate early,” one agent told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle at the winter meetings, although he also admitted: “Bumgarner might be the exception because he is so unbelievable.”
As unbelievable as Bumgarner is, he’d likely have to hold off on signing and continue being himself in 2018 and 2019 to gain enough leverage to squeeze market value out of the Giants. That would require him not breaking down. His track record bodes well there, but no pitcher is unbreakable. He’d be taking a chance.
Alternatively, Bumgarner and the Giants could make it easy on themselves and find the middle ground next winter.
My best guess is that would involve going back to 2013 and taking a cue from Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. When they agreed to a seven-year, $175 million extension, what they actually agreed to was a five-year, $135.5 million deal on top of money Hernandez was still owed in the final two years of his original contract of five years and $78 million. Although he signed coming off his age-26 season, his new deal wouldn’t begin until his age-29 season in 2015.
How much will Madison Bumgarner’s next contract be worth?
The ages won’t quite line up if Bumgarner and the Giants go this route after 2017. He’d be coming off his age-27 season and negotiating a deal that would start in his age-30 season in 2020. But since the timing and talent similarities are there, the only other big difference would be the passage of time and corresponding inflation.
So, let’s see…call it five years and $150 million, starting in 2020 and running through 2024?
That plus the money in Bumgarner’s 2018 and 2019 options would mean at least $174 and at most $182 million over a seven-year span. That would be good money for him and also a considerable discount for the Giants. Ergo, the middle ground.
Since this is a complicated case with lots of ins, outs and what-have-yous, my best guess is obviously less than a promise. The Giants could choose to be more generous despite their leverage advantage. Or, Bumgarner could be the generous one. Or, he could choose to bet on himself in 2018 and 2019, either to gain leverage on the Giants or boost his value for free agency.
Regardless, Bumgarner is only going to get closer to some kind of big payday as time passes. And when it comes, it’ll put his first payday to shame.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com. Contract and payroll data courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.