Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner

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MLB insider: Bumgarner, Greinke may stay put

Tim Kelly
May 16, 2019 - 8:17 am

June 1st is usually when substantive trade rumors usually begin to be bandied about. That, seemingly, is plenty of time before the July 31 trade deadline. But allow this to be a primer for two of the bigger names you may hear about in trade rumors this summer - Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke.

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“I think there are two big time pitchers to keep an eye on in that division (the National League West),” Jon Heyman said on "Big Time Baseball" on RADIO.COM. “The other one would be Zack Greinke, with the Diamondbacks (the first is San Francisco Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner). Now, Arizona has played well. I don’t know that they expect to be contending when the trade deadline rolls around, that will be something to look at. I’m not sure either one of them gets traded. From what I hear, Greinke loves it in Arizona. He also has a limited no-trade clause, I’m sure that he was very smart about the teams that he put on that.”

Greinke, 35, has quietly had a career that will garner Hall of Fame consideration when it’s concluded. A five-time All-Star, Greinke actually has a higher career bWAR and JAWS than Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and CC Sabathia, at least two of whom are seen as likely Hall of Famers. At the same time, Greinke is owed $64 million over the next two seasons and his contract has $62.5 million deferred between 2022 and 2026. The Diamondbacks would likely have to eat a large chunk (if not all) of the deferred money owed to Greinke to seriously entice a team to trade for Greinke at this juncture.

As part of the six-year/$206.5 million deal Greinke signed with the Diamondbacks ahead of the 2016 season, he can block trades to 15 teams in the league. The Phillies are a contender and for as well traveled as Greinke has been, he’s never pitched on the East Coast, so you can bet the Phillies are one of those 15 teams. With two full seasons left on his contract, Greinke may not be interested in relocating, even if the Diamondbacks fade after a surprisingly impressive start.

For what it’s worth, after taking a step back in 2018, Greinke’s been excellent so far in 2019. In nine starts, Greinke is 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA, 3.16 FIP and 1.5 fWAR. Although talks never gained any traction, Matt Klentak’s front-office did reportedly inquire about Greinke’s availability after the 2017 season. (Greinke is scheduled to get an MRI after experiencing abdominal tightness in his impressive start Wednesday night.)

Bumgarner, meanwhile, has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to eight teams. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported last weekend that Bumgarner strategically blocked eight contenders, the Phillies included, which gives him some leverage in deciding where he ends up if the Giants do trade him this summer. It could also allow him to net a couple extra million from the Giants or the team acquiring him to get him to waive his no-trade clause.

It is possible that Bumgarner would block a trade to the Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees or St. Louis Cardinals, the eight teams he has the right to block a deal to. You can determine how likely it is that the 29-year-old lefty would do that. What is at least something worth monitoring is the idea that the Giants may be inclined to keep Bumgarner and attempt to re-sign him if president Farhan Zaidi isn’t floored by a trade offer.

“It is just time to consider a trade for Bumgarner, I’m just not sure they’re going to be able to do it,” Heyman continued. “A half year for Bumgarner - even if it’s going to include October, because presumably it’s a playoff team that goes for him and he’s fantastic in October - I’m not sure you’re going to get that huge prospect that’s going to blow away the fans and excite them.”

The feeling here is that nostalgia is unlikely to sway Zaidi, the former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager. If there’s a deal to be made that allows the Giants to become a better team in the long-run, he wouldn’t hesitate to make it. It is fair to wonder if higher powers could nix any deal for Bumgarner they don’t see as a slam dunk, though.

And as Heyman said, the Giants are unlikely to receive a franchise-altering package for Bumgarner, a four-time All-Star. Never mind how hesitant that teams are to part with top prospects, Bumgarner posted a combined 3.0 fWAR in just 38 starts between 2017 and 2018. Between 2014 and 2016, he averaged a 4.3 fWAR per season. In 2019, he has a 4.04 ERA, 3.43 FIP and 0.9 fWAR. Could Bumgarner, one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, benefit from a change of scenery. Probably. But teams aren’t going to back the truck up for a pitcher that has a lot of mileage on his arm and can become a free-agent after the season.

“Even though there’s going to be a lot of talk about Bumgarner and Greinke, I’m going to bet right now that both of them stay where they are.”