Big-spending Giants have baseball’s best bargain in Madison Bumgarner

The San Francisco Giants opened up their wallets this winter, and as a result they’ll have one of baseball’s most expensive starting rotations. Take a look at the 2016 salaries of their four most expensive starters:

Matt Cain: $21 million

Johnny Cueto: $15.8 million

Jake Peavy: $15 million

Jeff Samardzija: $10.8 million

That’s a whole lot of money tied up in starting pitching. It’s a good thing the Giants have an affordable fifth starter set to make just $9.75 million this year.

That fifth starter is actually their ace, and Madison Bumgarner’s contract should cause everyone in the Giants’ front office to stop and give thanks at least twice per day. Besides his 2016 salary, Bumgarner is owed another $11.5 million next season before two more team options kick in at $12 million each year. So the Giants control one of the best starters in baseball, and the premiere Postseason pitcher of his generation, for the next four seasons at a grand total of $45.25 million; or, about $11 million more than Zack Greinke will earn in 2016.

The best bargain in baseball? Clearly. But when he signed the contract in 2012, Bumgarner was no sure thing. He struggled that year, to the point where he was nearly removed from the Postseason rotation after getting shelled in the first two rounds. And the Giants were taking a risk too, buying out Bumgarner’s arbitration years and betting on him getting better. Considering they’d been burned by a long-term deal with Barry Zito, it was a gutsy move. And considering how Cain’s contract has turned out, it speaks even more to how much of a risk they were taking.

For his part, Bumgarner seems fine with his relatively low salary. He’s talked about it in the past, and he truly seems like the kind of guy who’s content with what he earns and is grateful for the Giants taking the risk on him in the first place. There was a chance back in ’12 that Bumgarner would turn into the pitcher that he is today, but it certainly wasn’t inevitable. It was a risk/reward deal for both sides.

Still, it’s hard to fathom that Bumgarner will be the lowest-paid member of the Giants rotation this year considering what he’s accomplished and what the Giants are counting on him to do. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team offered him a massive extension that would kick in after 2019, with an annual salary that would put him on par with the Greinkes and Kershaws of the world, while adding a signing bonus that would beef up his yearly salaries for the remainder of his current contract.

While there don’t seem to be any hard feelings to smooth over, doing something like that would be a way to make sure that none develop. And it’s never a bad thing to make your best pitcher feel appreciated.

But the Giants don’t have to do a thing if they don’t want to, and considering they’ve spent $326 million already this winter, they may not be in a hurry to cut any more checks. And as long as Bumgarner says he’s happy and doesn’t complain, there won’t be any sense of urgency to get another deal done.

So for the time being, the Giants will continue to enjoy one of the best bargains in pro sports and Bumgarner will continue to be grossly underpaid. No sense in fixing something that isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if the Giants address it sometime in the near future. Bumgarner is too important to the franchise to not take care of him.

They may wait for an offseason where they haven’t spent almost a third of a billion dollars, though. That’s understandable.

About Dave Tobener

Dave Tobener has been writing about baseball for the better part of a decade. He's been to more Giants games than he can remember and was there when Ruben Rivera forgot how to run the bases. Follow him on Twitter: @gggiants