MINNEAPOLIS — Even with Michael Pineda showing improvement in his start on Saturday in the Twins’ 5-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a doubleheader at Target Field, there is little doubt the Minnesota brass will be exploring the trade market looking to bolster its starting pitching for a team that will have a chance to win its first American League Central title since 2010.
One potential candidate to add to the top of the rotation will be 29-year-old lefthander Madison Bumgarner of San Francisco. The Giants figure to spend the season near the bottom of the National League West and are in rebuild mode. Bumgarner, who has spent all 12 of his big-league seasons in San Francisco and been part of three World Series champions in that time, is in the final season of his contract.
Things got interesting Saturday when Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic and MLB Network reported Bumgarner had submitted a no-trade list of eight teams to the Giants. The list includes Atlanta, Boston, the Chicago Cubs, Houston, Milwaukee, the New York Yankees, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
That’s right the Twins aren’t on his list. Of course, the eight teams that Bumgarner names are contenders and there’s a reason for this. It’s not that Bumgarner doesn’t want to be traded to any of the clubs he listed, but instead provides him with leverage since he figures the Giants will be shopping him to those teams before the July 31 trade deadline.
This doesn’t mean the Twins couldn’t emerge in the Bumgarner sweepstakes that are sure to take place. There is little question he will want to be traded. Not only to get off a bad team but also because free agents to be who are traded during the season can not receive a qualifying offer from their team in the offseason.
That will make it much easier for Bumgarner to sign with the club of his choosing as a free agent this offseason. When a player rejects a qualifying offer, as currently unsigned pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel did, the team that signs him losses one or more picks until the MLB draft is completed in early June. Thus, by getting out of San Francisco, Bumgarner will avoid what Keuchel and Kimbrel have had to go through.
More context on Bumgarner: His contract allows him to reject trades to eight teams. The eight I reported are the ones he can block. He can still approve trades to those teams, but generally players want some form of compensation to waive their no-trade protection.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 11, 2019
Further explanation on Bumgarner: Players include contenders on their no-trade list to gain leverage if a trade agreement is reached, NOT because they have no interest in winning.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 11, 2019
Bumgarner is 2-4 this season with a career-high 3.99 ERA in eight starts, but his FIP (which converts a pitcher’s three true outcomes into an ERA-like number) is 3.50 after being 3.99 last season. He also would bring valuable postseason experience to the Twins. Bumgarner, a four-time All-Star, is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 career postseason games and 14 starts. This includes a 4-0 record and 0.25 ERA in the World Series.
So what would it take to get Bumgarner?
It would be interesting to see if Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey would shop third baseman Miguel Sano, who could become the Giants first baseman. If Falvey wanted to avoid giving up Sano, he likely would need to give up a package of prospects, although it’s almost certain that shortstop Royce Lewis and first baseman/outfielder Alex Kirilloff would be off limits.
Beyond the SKOR:
Madison Bumgarner gave the Giants a list of 8 teams he can’t be traded to…. and guess who’s not on that list?
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) May 11, 2019
Bumgarner would slot in behind Jose Berrios with Jake Odorizzi, Martin Perez and Kyle Gibson filling out the rest of the rotation. For now, Pineda holds the fifth spot and he has been the weak link it what otherwise has been a strength for Minnesota.
Pineda, who signed with the Twins in December 2017 and spent last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitched into the seventh inning on Saturday. He gave up three runs, all on solo home runs, six hits with no walks and five strikeouts (all on sliders) in six innings.
“Mike threw the ball well. I thought he located, for the most part, well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There were again long periods of time where he had command of all of his pitches and his slider looked good. A few little spurts where maybe he finds it and loses it and finds it and loses it. As a whole, I thought it was a very productive start. He kept us in the game and threw the ball well.”
Tigers shortstop Ronny Rodriguez (four-seam fastball) and designated hitter Brandon Dixon (slider) both homered in the second inning off Pineda, and Rodriguez hit his second of the day in the fourth inning off a changeup.
“Those aren’t the home runs that are usually going to beat you,” Baldelli said. “Today, we did not win the ballgame and we had our opportunities and things to stay in the game and take a lead at some point. As far as the way big Mike pitched, I think he limited damage well, he made pitches when he had to and, yeah, he gave up a few home runs but as a whole he made way more quality pitches than not.”
The Twins rallied to tie the score 3-3 in the eighth inning but reliever Trevor Hildenberger continued his recent struggles by giving up two runs and three hits in the ninth inning, including a go-ahead homer by catcher John Hicks.
Hildbenberger had a 1.93 ERA, five holds and one save in 9.1 innings over his first 13 appearances of the season. But in four appearances since May 1, the reliever with the sidearm delivery has given up six earned runs and nine hits in 3.1 innings.
“We talk about execution with all of our guys, and I think that’s what it comes down to,” Baldelli said when asked about Hildenberger’s struggles. “We’ve also seen some at-bats within some of those outings where he’s made great pitches and gotten a lot of swing and miss and had guys really off-balance and done a nice job. But like anyone else, when we miss in the middle of the plate we get hurt and that’s kind of what happens some times.”
It is interesting that Kimbrel remains on the market and after the MLB draft is complete in early June the team that signs him won’t have to give up any draft pick compensation.