In the last month, we’ve seen a lot of extensions being handed out to star players including Joey Votto, Matt Cain, Ian Kinsler, and Brandon Phillips and this past week we saw yet another one given. Madison Bumgarner was the beneficiary this time as he received five years worth $35 million with two team options which could keep him in San Francisco through 2019.
From a purely baseball perspective, this move is very good. Bumgarner, 23 in August, is coming off a season in which he started 33 games, tossed over 200 innings, struck out over eight guys per nine innings, and pitched to a 2.67 FIP. Obviously, the Giants feel he can do this year in and year out so they bought him out of his pre-arbitration and arbitration years with the hope that he’ll continue performing at a high level and won’t get hurt.
For comparison sake, let’s take a look at two other similar pitchers and see what they got. Derek Holland and Jon Niese are two other young south paws who have recently been extended as well by the Rangers and Mets, respectively. Niese has two decent full seasons under his belt and got five years worth $25 million and Holland has two and a half solid seasons to his credit and got $28.5 million over five. Being younger and having more upside is certainly the reason why MadBum got more and he has the potential to be worth a lot more than this if he continues to pitch the way he has. Even though he has less experience, this could wind being a bargain in the long run.
General Manager Brian Sabean is doing a great job at keeping his good, young pitching together. We saw over the off-season that the market value for top-flight pitching is very high. Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez were both traded for four very good prospects each. Down the line, if Bumgarner continues to develop into a front line starter, he could easily be worth something similar to this on the trade market or worth Matt Cain’s $100+ million. So it’s nice to see them act early and try to save some money.
It’s also good that the Giants have locked up Cain and Bumgarner with what’s going on with Tim Lincecum. Lincecum, who has been the ace of the Giants staff for the last few years, has gotten off to very rough start in 2012. In his first three starts he has gotten hit hard, posting an ERA above ten. His velocity is down, which usually wouldn't be a big cause for concern since it’s only April, but the fact that he scrapped his slider completely because it hurt his elbow when he threw it is a big red flag. Having the former two on the books for the foreseeable future makes the Lincecum thing a tiny bit easier take, not that anything has happened yet.
A trend is starting emerge around baseball when it comes to very young, very good starting pitchers. It started when Matt Moore, who has yet to shed his Rookie eligibility, was signed to a five year extension with three option years tacked on. Teams are starting to take action with their young pitchers earlier, whether it be holding on to them (i.e. Moore, Bumgarner) or trading them for more value (i.e. Latos and Gio). There may be some risk involved with giving big contracts to these young players, but I think it’s the right move, and one that more organizations should start to do.