Over the weekend there was a report from Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic speculating that due to the way the free agent market has been playing out, there might be possibility to move some bad contracts and save more money than previously thought prior to the start of this off season.
One such bad contract mentioned was Madison Bumgarner’s who’s 2022 season and history with the Diamondbacks we reviewed earlier this off season. Rosenthal thought that perhaps the Diamondbacks could save $12 million of the $37 million still owed to Bumgarner over the next two seasons.*
*Note: Bumgarner is scheduled to make $23 million in 2023 and $14 million in 2024, total $37 million over the next two seasons. $5 million of the 2023 portion is deferred until 2027. None of the 2024 money is deferred. He has a partial no trade clause and may block trades to five teams. It’s unknown which five teams.
Taking a look at the contracts that have been signed for starting pitchers, it’s hard to see how the overall market has actually changed however. Yes there are a few contracts that appear like slight over pays or are taking on some risk, but that’s usually the case. The average dollars per projected WAR are still right around $8 million in aggregate. And in fact the median is just 7.1
Scroll to Continue
There are comments that we can make on each pitcher individually. It looks like the Phillies overpaid for Taijuan Walker. In the Case of top tier older pitchers with a lot of mileage or potential injury issues, such as Jacob deGrom or Clayton Kershaw, their dollar per WAR figure is lower than the average, a reflection of that risk. However the projected WAR is just looking at year one, and in deGrom’s case that’s almost certain to climb over the five year term. Verlander is simply a special case and the Mets are the Mets right now, a team with unlimited funds trying to win right this second.
The bottom line is that when you look at all the others, and apply the averages, it’s just not possible to make an objective case that Madison Bumgarner’s market has changed all that much. His projected WAR for 2023 is just 0.5 WAR. Using the market examples and averages above then the Diamondbacks can only expect to save about $8 million of the $37 million owed to him if they were to try to trade him.
0.5 x two seasons = 1 WAR x $8M per WAR.
It’s possible some team may think they can coach a bit more value out of him and might be willing to pay a little more than that. This is not to say that the $12 million savings that Rosenthal put forth is “wrong”. It’s just an estimate that upon closer examination didn’t seem to hold up.
The bigger question perhaps is do the Diamondbacks even want to trade him at this point? The conventional wisdom is they would love to get out from under that contract. But at the same time the team has stated clearly one of their off season goals is to add to the starting pitching depth, not subtract from it. As the mid tier starters come off the board one by one, it’s clear the Diamondbacks are not in that mid tier market. Someone like Jose Quintana or Sean Manaea may seem like pretty good values based on the chart above, but the D-backs just don’t seem to be interested in that tier.
Pitchers such as Jose Urena or Vince Velasquez may be closer to price tag and level they will be after. Or perhaps a flyer on a pitcher like Danny Duffy or Ryan Yarbrough, pitchers with some injury concerns that have reasonable projections. It may be a long wait for D-backs fans to see what the team does. Perhaps the tru bargains will be available in mid to late January or even later as free agents get nervous about not having a spring training camp to report to.
Leave a Reply