Madison Bumgarner

Giants lock up Madison Bumgarner with long-term deal

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Two weeks after handing Matt Cain a five-year, $121.5 million contract extension the Giants have locked up Madison Bumgarner long term as well, signing the 22-year-old left-hander to a five-year deal with team options for 2018 and 2019. According to his agents the contract is worth $35 million in guaranteed money.

In terms of service time Cain and Bumgarner are much different, as Cain would have been eligible for free agency after this season and Bumgarner isn’t even arbitration eligible yet.

San Francisco already had Bumgarner under team control through 2016, so this deal simply pre-pays for his three arbitration seasons and buys out his first year of free agency while giving the Giants an opportunity to keep him off the open market for two additional years. If they exercise both options he won’t be a free agent until 2020, at age 30.

As with any long-term commitment to a 22-year-old pitcher there’s lots of risk involved, but Bumgarner was considered an elite prospect in the minors and has already established himself as one of baseball’s best left-handed starters with a 3.12 ERA and 292/79 K/BB ratio in 337 career innings.

Now that the Giants control Cain through 2018 and Bumgarner through 2019 they may not feel as much pressure to break the bank for Tim Lincecum, who has another year and $22 million left on his deal, although certainly no amount of top-notch young rotation depth makes losing a two-time Cy Young winner to free agency before age 30 any easier.

Josh Hamilton has knee surgery, out 2-3 months

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.

As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:

That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.