The Wheel has decided to throw another curveball in our Seattle Mariners Off-Season Profiles series. So today, we look at former World Series hero Madison Bumgarner.
Last off-season the Arizona Diamondbacks made one of the most surprising moves of the winter, signing former San Francisco Giants hero Madison Bumgarner. The deal was a 5-year, $85 million contract that raised eyebrows across baseball.
Bumgarner was coming off a subpar season and the Arizona Diamondbacks had, just a few months prior, traded away Zack Greinke. On the surface, Arizona was a prime rebuilding candidate with a quickly improving farm system that could have led a quick turn around. Instead, GM Mike Haden decided to spend big on an aging superstar. The results were quite predictable.
Bumgarner finished the 2020 season with a 6.48 ERA, a 7.18 FIP, 6.5 k/9, and a -0.3 WAR. His fastball velocity dropped to 88.4 MPH and his barrel percentage was in the first percentile. The kicker? Bumgarner only made $6 million in 2020 (pre-proration) meaning the final 4 years of his deal will see him make $79 million.
If this is all sounding very concerning, that’s great because that is my intent. Players like Madison Bumgarner represent the biggest landmine in professional sports: a player whose name recognition has far exceeded his reputation. The Mariners need quality starting pitching to break their playoff streak and they can do a whole lot better than 2021 Bumgarner for $19 million AAV.
This isn’t the off-season to take on a bad contract. Seattle doesn’t need to resort to that. They’ve cleared their books of all bad contracts, giving them ultimate flexibility down the line. Handing a check to an aging and degrading arm is exactly what the previous regime would do in an attempt to excite a dormant fan base. Thankfully, Jerry Dipoto and company are not interested in such shortcuts. Instead, they know that winning attracts fans, not big names.