St. Louis Cardinals: Pursuing Madison Bumgarner risky, but could pay off
The St. Louis Cardinals rotation hasn’t performed at the level it did last year. A trade for Madison Bumgarner could help, but it is a dicey proposition.
The starting rotation of the St. Louis Cardinals is a weak link of the team, and with the San Francisco Giants eyeing a rebuild, pitcher Madison Bumgarner is a prime candidate to be dealt. If the Cardinals decide to go after him, the payoff could be huge. But it could also end the team’s years of success if he doesn’t pan out.
The Cardinals’ acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt in December showed that the team is a win-now mode, and on that front, adding Bumgarner to shore up the rotation seems like a no-brainer. Bumgarner has proven himself to be an ace during his time with the Giants, and while he has logged a lot of innings in his career, he is only 29, so he could still have some good years left in him.
Bumgarner has been very effective in the postseason, with a career ERA of 2.11 in his four postseasons. This could be luck, or Bumgarner really could be more effective when the spotlight shines brightest.
The Cardinals rotation currently comprises Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Dakota Hudson. If Bumgarner were to be obtained, Hudson would likely be the best bet to go to the bullpen, or even be sent to the minor leagues to work on his craft. But if he stayed with the big club, Hudson would likely be yet another weapon in the bullpen.
Bumgarner does have the Cardinals on his no-trade clause, but this doesn’t mean they can’t acquire him. He has several contenders on his no-trade clause; thus, if multiple teams on his clause try to get him, he can veto some of the offers and choose which team he wants to join.
Bumgarner’s numbers have slipped a bit from his four consecutive All-Star years from 2013 to 2016, but he is still an effective pitcher. While he was injured during stints of the last two seasons, the injuries were more of a result of bad luck than poor conditioning. He suffered a shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident in 2017, and last year a line drive broke his hand during Spring Training. So for the most part, Bumgarner has been a durable pitcher.
Bumgarner would not come cheap, though. The Cardinals would have to give up some top young talent, and Alex Reyes‘ star has likely dimmed too much for him to be someone the Giants would be willing to take as a trade centerpiece. Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals’ No. 1 prospect, could be someone the team might have to part with.
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This raises the question of how long Bumgarner would stay with the Cardinals. Trading a top prospect like Gorman for a rental in Bumgarner could be seen as a massive heist for the Giants in a few years; however, if Bumgarner would prove integral in capturing a World Series crown for the Cardinals, it could be worth it. If the Cardinals were able to extend Bumgarner, the trade could also be seen as more worthwhile if he remains a solid pitcher.
Bumgarner’s attitude has been a source of controversy. He has started a few fights because of his reactions to players pimping home runs or celebrating. One could see this as simply a fiery demeanor; indeed, Bumgarner seems very passionate about the game. But it is worth questioning if the Cardinals would be willing to acquire such a polarizing player.
Although Bumgarner has not dazzled yet this season, if he can be a strong pitcher, the Cardinals could benefit immensely from his services. It’s all a question of if the Cardinals are willing to go all in right now.