The MLB Winter Meetings came and went with the top-two free-agent starting pitchers finding homes for the foreseeable future. Stephen Strasburg was the first domino to fall, re-signing with the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million contract.
Gerrit Cole then came off the board the following day, inking a historic nine-year, $324 million pact with the New York Yankees. In terms of total value, it is the second-most lucrative contract in MLB history, trailing only Bryce Harper’s $330 million with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly had Cole atop their wish list this offseason, offering him an eight-year contract worth $300 million with deferrals. After missing out on the star right-hander, they redirected their focus to an unlikely candidate.
L.A. was reportedly in pursuit of longtime San Francisco Giants nemesis Madison Bumgarner, who at the time was one of the top remaining free-agent starting pitchers available.
Part of the Dodgers’ interest in signing Bumgarner stemmed from their belief he could recover from some decline, via Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
The Dodgers are one of the teams that believe Bumgarner has upside.
While Bumgarner has taken a step back statistically in recent years, there are signs of encouragement as he enters his age-30 season.
The left-hander’s fastball velocity saw a slight increase in 2019 while his spin rate considerably jumped as well. He also logged over 200 innings and 30 starts for the first time in three years, signifying that his previous injuries are behind him.
On the flip side, Bumgarner allowed a career-high 30 home runs and posted a personal-worst 3.90 ERA last season. He overall compiled a 9-9 record, 3.90 FIP and 1.13 WHIP with 203 strikeouts against 43 walks in 207.2 innings (34 starts).
As the Dodgers mulled over their options for potential starting rotation upgrades, they are believed to have interest in bringing back Hyun-Jin Ryu as well. The 32-year-old has attracted plenty of suitors this offseason, including the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals.
Another option for the Dodgers is circling back to Rich Hill, who has pitched for the organization over parts of the previous four seasons. He is currently recovering from elbow surgery and is expected to miss most of the first half next season.
Although there was said to be mutual interest between Bumgarner and the Dodgers, he wound up joining the Arizona Diamondbacks on a five-year deal.
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