Madison Bumgarner looked to be a steal for the Arizona Diamondbacks when he signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the club before the 2020 MLB season.
High-rollers like the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly had the inside track on the former Cy Young candidate.
But it was an up-and-coming D-Backs team who secured the services of the former San Francisco Giants pitcher as the left-hander looked to bounce back from a couple of injury-plagued seasons and begin a late-career renaissance.
Instead, Bumgarner struggled and so did the Diamondbacks. Through his first three seasons, Bumgarner’s ERA sat just under five and his WHIP ballooned, while the D-Backs posted three straight losing campaigns.
In 2023, the lefty finally reached his nadir. In four starts this year with the Diamondbacks, Bumgarner posted a 10.26 ERA across 16 innings pitched, with 15 walks allowed to just 10 strikeouts.
His advanced analytics painted a similarly grim picture: Bumgarner’s Expected ERA, Expected Slugging, and Expected Weighted On-Base Average all ranked in the bottom three percent among qualified MLB pitchers.
On April 26, Arizona released the 33-year-old with almost two full years left on his contract.
Given his reputation, Bumgarner will likely be a target for numerous MLB clubs, as he is available for the league minimum salary of $720,000, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Among these teams, one of the most intriguing options is the New York Mets, who, at 17-18, have failed to meet expectations so far.
Does Madison Bumgarner make sense for the Mets?
Much of these struggles can come down to inconsistent starting pitching — an area that was supposed to be a strength of the NL East contenders.
Nine different pitchers have already started a game for the Mets, and through 35 games, Mets starters have posted a 5.34 ERA, seventh-worst in the Majors.
Kodai Senga (3.38 ERA in six starts), and Tylor Megill (4.33 ERA in seven starts) have both been solid, but the dropoff outside of this duo is significant.
Max Scherzer — the highest-paid player (along with teammate Justin Verlander) in MLB this season — has not quite been himself, with a 5.56 ERA through the first month-plus of the season, and his Expected ERA of 5.26 shows these are not just surface-level struggles.
An even bigger problem for the Mets is injuries. Justin Verlander, Carlos Carrasco, and Joey Lucchesi have already spent time on the IL, while off-season additions Jose Quintana and Elieser Hernandez have yet to make their New York debuts.
Enter Madison Bumgarner, a player who made four straight MLB All-Star games between 2013 and 2016.
Bumgarner is not that pitcher anymore, but the Mets do not need him to be the wizard he was during his heyday with the Giants. Even the 4.88 ERA he posted last year would be an improvement for the New York pitching staff that ranks last in the Majors with just five quality starts this year.
Citi Field is also one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in Major League Baseball, ranking 27th in Baseball Savant’s Park Factor Leaderboard, a stat that assigns a higher ranking to ballparks that are more conducive to batter success.
The Mets have shown that they are not afraid to sign veteran starters like Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Carrasco — all 34 or older — and the addition of Madison Bumgarner would be a useful, if only temporary, stop-gate for the ballclub’s current pitching woes.
Despite the highest payroll in the league, a cheap signing like Madison Bumgarner could be what gets the Mets out of their early-season slump.
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