Would Yankees dare take chance on struggling Madison Bumgarner after DFA?
By Adam Weinrib
Despite planning to enter the season with a sterling starting rotation, the Yankees' group has been woefully incomplete to start 2023.
Starts that were supposed to go to Carlos Rodón, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas have instead gone to Clarke Schmidt, Domingo Germán and Jhony Brito. Brito was excellent in his first two outings, solid in his fourth, and so bad in his third that it tainted his overall numbers nearly beyond repair. Germán turned in a gem against the Twins (and maybe, kinda, sorta should've been ejected?), but has been otherwise pedestrian; he's the favorite in the clubhouse to keep his job the longest, and for good reason. Schmidt remains a failed experiment, for the time being.
Now, the Yankees must answer an unfortunate question: How bad does the back end of your rotation have to be to entertain signing Madison Bumgarner for the league minimum?
Bumgarner, still just 33 years old, fits the crusty veteran "Yankees" image recently personified by Brian McCann to a tee, even though the Bombers haven't acted that way for years. He was DFA'd by the Diamondbacks on Thursday following a tough outing in St. Louis (seven earned runs in three innings), which raised his ERA to 10.26 and his FIP to 8.13 on the season). He hasn't been himself since signing a five-year deal with Arizona before the 2020 season; previously, he'd at least maintained his status as a below-4.00 ERA guy with the Giants (after regressing from his World Series hero days).
Let's not split hairs. Adding Bumgarner now would involve importing a pitcher who hasn't performed well since 2019, posting a 5.23 ERA during the totality of his time in Arizona. Still, much the same way we had to last year after Dallas Keuchel's DFA, it's worth wondering if the Yankees -- with an open 40-man roster spot -- should take a chance at minimal cost.
Also -- side note -- the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are the Arizona Diamondbacks, just absorbed a $34 million loss to make this move with two years remaining on Bumgarner's contract.
The Yankees, who are the Yankees, can't do the same with Aaron Hicks' $30 million to make him disappear?
Yankees Rumors: Madison Bumgarner destinations after Diamondbacks DFA
This conversation could all be moot by later in the week. Bumgarner's former manager Bruce Bochy is in Texas now, and the Rangers just lost similar veteran swingman type Jake Odorizzi for the year. The fit is there, if Bochy believes there's still untapped potential in Bumgarner's leering stare.
The chances are greater that the Yankees are facing Bumgarner next week in Arlington than they are that Brian Cashman opts to pursue the left-hander.
Still, any Yankee fan who was directly impacted by George Steinbrenner's marquee-based moves can't shake the fact that an aging MadBum could be the new Randy Johnson, especially considering who the Yankees are running out every five days (and will continue to run out through sometime in May, at the earliest).
We won't lie. There is nothing below the hood that indicates Bumgarner could be turning a corner. His Statcast numbers are horrendous. His counting stats are worse. He's been in the bottom 7% of the league in xBA allowed in two of the past three seasons (though he actually underperformed his peripherals in 2021, if that helps you sleep at night). If the Yankees were to sign Bumgarner, they'd be plugging a long-forgotten name into a gap currently held by an unproven top prospect. They probably wouldn't strike gold.
But dammit, the 2004 Yankees definitely would've tried. It cannot be ruled out.