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Yankees potential trade partner: San Francisco Giants

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The Yankees need a starting pitcher. The Giants have one of the most talked-about available starters. Does that make Madison Bumgarner a good fit?

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The trade deadline always brings about plenty of smoke, swirling rumors, fake Ken Rosenthal Twitter accounts, and plenty of other uncertainties. However, as we head toward the 2019 trade deadline, there seem to be at least two concrete narratives: the Yankees will be looking to add as they gear up for a World Series push, and the Giants will be looking to acquire assets that can speed up a rebuild.

So, are the two teams a match for a trade? Well, there is really only one option to consider when it comes to the Giants, and that’s lefty starter Madison Bumgarner. The Yankees’ most glaring need is a starter, and Bumgarner’s name has been mentioned in Yankees trade possibilities for years, but the Giants haven’t moved one of their most beloved players in franchise history, at least not yet.

Of course, this could absolutely change this season, as the Giants are stuck in last place in the NL West, going absolutely nowhere as Bumgarner pitches through the final season of his eight-year deal. If the Giants don’t move him before the deadline, they risk losing him for nothing, which would be a tough sell to fans who want to see the team collect prospects and build a new core, even if the pain of losing their World Series workhorse will sting for a while.

Again, when it comes to the Giants and the Yankees, Bumgarner is really the only name worth focusing on. The Yankees aren’t interested in Jeff Samardzija or Drew Pomeranz (or at least I hope they’re not). Who knows if they’re even interested in the soon-to-be 30-year-old Bumgarner, who has been around a league average pitcher for three seasons, battling injury and a fading fastball as a result of logging more than 200 innings from 2011 to 2016?

First, let’s look at Bumgarner right now. After his last start on Sunday, the lefty holds a 4.01 ERA with 113 strikeouts over 102.2 innings. He’s been healthy, which would be a plus for the Yankees given how banged-up their rotation has been, but he’s been average on the whole

There have certainly been highs and lows for Bumgarner this season. In four starts from May 23 to June 9, Bumgarner allowed just eight runs over 25 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .692 OPS, and two of those starts came against very strong lineups in the Braves and Dodgers. In his following start, he was tagged for six runs over 3.2 innings against the Dodgers, then bounced back for a season-high 11 strikeouts against the Rockies before his last outing, where he held the Diamondbacks to just one run on nine strikeouts through seven innings. Obviously, if he can keep up that kind of production from his last two starts, he would make for a valuable asset.

As we know, Bumgarner isn’t blowing fastballs past anyone. His heater has averaged 91.8 mph this season (and he’s throwing it a lot more than last year), though, his fastest mark since 2015, even if that isn’t exactly premium velocity in today’s game. Of course, Bumgarner’s spin rate is key for him, as it ranks in the 86th percentile among big league pitchers, per Statcast. That makes up for the lack of velocity, though the Yankees have experience dealing for a softer-throwing lefty with a high spin rate, as they did with J.A. Happ last year. While that worked out in the short term, it sure isn’t pretty right now.

Looking at some positives for Bumgarner, his walk rate has dropped two percent from last season, and his xFIP is down from 4.32 to 4.11, so he isn’t getting hit as hard. However, when you split that stat up between righty and lefty batters, his xFIP against lefties is a very strong 2.99, but against righties it’s 4.50. The Yankees need help against righty batters, and Bumgarner might not be a boon in that regard:

Now, let’s talk price. What will Bumgarner cost? That’s where things get tricky. On the surface, Bumgarner is an average rental with an incredible postseason pedigree. But in the minds of the Giants, he means so much more. The Giants might elect to keep Bumgarner if they don’t receive an offer that fits what they think he’s worth. Given what Bumgarner’s meant to the franchise, they could see him as worth much more than Brian Cashman.

Then, there’s the Yankees’ reported stance. One of the more glaring potential trade chips is Clint Frazier, though the team recently said that they aren’t willing to move Frazier unless it’s for a controllable starter, and Bumgarner doesn’t fit that mold on the brink of free agency. Will either team change that mindset?

When it comes to Bumgarner, everyone wants to see if a jolt into a pennant race would bring back the Bumgarner of old. Many point to Justin Verlander and his trade to the Astros, but Verlander still had elite velocity and was already returning to elite form before he was shipped from Detroit. This is likely not going to be that case. Maybe Bumgarner’s production will see a minor uptick, and make him a slightly above average pitcher, which the Yankees would likely take at this point, for the right price. We’ll see if the Giants’ as meets what the Bombers would be willing to give up.