PHOENIX – When the Arizona Diamondbacks signed All-Star left-handed pitcher Madison Bumgarner before 2019, they didn’t envision the marriage’s conclusion ending in a premature divorce.
However, four years later, after 363 1/3 innings pitched and a 5.23 ERA as a Diamondbacks player, Bumgarner learned he had been designated for assignment Wednesday night.
Although the decision wasn’t made overnight, general manager Mike Hazen said, he had to have a sense of urgency about it.
“We don’t snap our fingers and make decisions,” Hazen said to reporters Thursday. “I ask our players and staff to have urgency around how we’re going to play and attack and so I have to do the same thing.
“I can’t be a hypocrite and ask for that and not do it in my job.”
For stretches, the 33-year-old Bumgarner pitched at a high level. In fact, through his first seven starts last year, he had a 1.78 ERA and held opponents to a .196 batting average. Unfortunately for both the pitcher and the organization, it didn’t materialize long term.
This season, he made four starts – all ending in defeat – and posted a 10.26 ERA across 16.2 innings. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, enter Friday night’s game against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field leading the National League West.
A common message coming from the mouths of Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo is that they empathize with the person, and note he’s been doing everything he can to “right the ship,” but are frustrated with the results on the field.
“I just want to see everybody do well to help us win baseball games,” Lovullo said after Bumgarner’s outing Wednesday, where he gave up seven earned runs in three innings in a 14-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. “Obviously that didn’t happen today.”
After a follow-up question to Lovullo asked where the team would go from there, he said, “I don’t know … The (coaching staff and front office) will sit down and figure out what’s going to give us the best option in five days. We do the same thing after every start, and we’ll do that again.”
Within hours of the news breaking that Bumgarner was getting designated for assignment, team president and CEO Derrick Hall praised the former San Francisco Giants All-Star and World Series hero’s work ethic.
“It’s tough because (Bumgarner) really has taken accountability,” Hall said on Arizona Sports’ 98.7 FM “Bickley & Marotta” morning show. “Everything is on the table … We’re never going to make a decision based on what a guy gets paid.
“Salary will never prevent us from making decisions that improve our roster and our chances to win.”
The decision ultimately costs the Diamondbacks approximately $37 million against their payroll – $14 million in 2024 – according to Spotrac.
However, the dead money left with Bumgarner’s departure won’t hamper anything the team does operationally moving forward in 2023.
“The money for this year was already allocated,” Hazen said. “We were going in with (that $23 million) on the books regardless. I wasn’t going to be able to move that money somewhere else. … In the end, I was told to do what needs to be done to win baseball games.”
While some thought top pitching prospect Brandon Pfaadt would get the call-up, taking the former World Series MVP’s spot in the rotation is the 25-year-old lefty Tommy Henry.
The Michigan native made nine starts at the MLB level in 2022, posting an ERA of 5.36 across 47 innings. This season, he has a 6.33 ERA in six starts with Triple-A Reno in the Pacific Coast League, which is a notorious offensive league.
“You’re going to see all these guys pitch,” Hazen said. “And more, is my bet. … We have two good options down there – both are going to be pitching up here.”