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Cubs Talk Podcast: Bumgarner + Brewers = Big Problem?

The Hot Stove season is still pretty lukewarm, but at least we have a major signing (Josh Donaldson) and rumors are becoming more commonplace.

Like the report from MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that the Milwaukee Brewers are one of the teams interested in trading for San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner:

A Bumgarner trade has been teased for a little while now and it appears to be picking up steam a couple weeks before the MLB Winter Meetings begin in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old lefty is one of the handful of pitchers in the game worthy of true “ace” status, though he is also coming off a pair of seasons in which he only pitched 240.2 innings combined across 38 starts due to hand and shoulder injuries. He is set to become a free agent after the 2019 campaign and is owed just $12 million total for the final year of his current deal.

That price tag would be a welcome addition to any team around baseball, but would absolutely fit with the small-market Brewers who are already on track to surpass their $109 million payroll from 2018. 

Milwaukee could also use some starting pitching — particularly an ace — though their “extreme bullpenning” strategy carried them one win away from the World Series this fall. 

Adding a guy of Bumgarner’s stature to the top of the Brewers rotation would be terrible news for the Cubs, who already watched Milwaukee catch them from behind in the division.

Imagine Bumgarner making 25-30 starts in front of the Brewers’ stellar shifting, an offense led by reigning MVP Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain and a bullpen behind him that may well be the best in baseball.

The reported price for Bumgarner is at least a top pitching prospect, but it would be hard to see the Brewers parting with an arm like Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta or Brandon Woodruff just for one season of a guy who’s been bit by the injury bug recently.

It’s all a matter of how much urgency the Brewers are feeling to take advantage of their current position as a contender. If 2019 is truly World Series-or-bust for Yelich and Co., a move for Bumgarner could put them over the top both on the field and in the clubhouse with a proven winner helping to lead by example the same way Jon Lester has for the Cubs over the last four years.

From 2013-16, Bumgarner was the epitome of dominance, finishing in the Top 10 in NL Cy Young voting each year (topping out at 4th in 2014 and ’16), making four straight All-Star Games, never posting an ERA above 2.98 while making at least 31 starts each season and sporting a healthy 9.4 K/9 and 1.04 WHIP.

Bumgarner also is a prolific hitter, slugging 17 homers for his career and at least 3 in every season from 2014-17. In that same four-year span, he posted a .706 OPS, which was better than the numbers put up by Albert Almora Jr. (.701 OPS), Tommy La Stella (.672), Addison Russell (.657) and Victor Caratini (.597) in 2018.

Bumgarner rivals Lester with his postseason resume, famously closing out the 2014 World Series in relief (and taking home MVP honors) and going 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA across 102.1 career playoff innings while leading the Giants to three championships.

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