Madison Bumgarner will officially make his first offseason decision in a few hours. His second will be more important.
By 2 p.m. Thursday, the Giants will hear from their legendary lefty that he is rejecting the qualifying offer and will test the free-agent market. Not as clear will be the decision of Will Smith, who could get more security and a longer-term deal as a free agent, but wouldn’t match the $17.8 million, one-time payday.
Bumgarner’s agent is not waiting until the deadline to begin selling his client to potential buyers. The Padres will meet with agent Ed Cerulo at the GM Meetings in Arizona, MLB Network reported, the latest team reportedly to check in with the 30-year-old’s representatives.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the San Francisco Chronicle that he will “definitely” be talking with Bumgarner’s reps. Meanwhile, there could be a bidding war in the NL East, as the Braves — as close to a hometown team as the North Carolina-native Bumgarner has — have long been seen as a potential fit, and the Phillies have checked in on Bumgarner, The Athletic reported.
There is a deep starting pitching free-agent market, headed by Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, who is also linked with the Padres. It would not be surprising to see the market go cold for weeks or months as Cole, whose agent is Scott Boras, awaits a megadeal that could approach $300 million.
Other top-of-the-line starters with whom Bumgarner will compete are the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu and Mets’ Zack Wheeler, who also has a qualifying offer attached to him that will hurt his market a bit. Minnesota’s Jake Odorizzi reportedly may accept his qualifying offer in the coming hours if interest does not pick up.
The Giants are expected to be interested in a reunion with Bumgarner, but are believed to be seeking a shorter-term contract than Bumgarner wants.