The one big question for the Orioles this offseason is who might get traded to help set up the next good O’s team. The next question is when. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, one answer is Dylan Bundy. Feinsand reported that while a deal is “not imminent”, one “appears to be getting close.”
There have not been very many rumors like this since Mike Elias took over as GM of the Orioles. The July trade of Andrew Cashner came out of nowhere, at least as far as the public knew from what was reported. Unlike when the Orioles were undergoing the Dan Duquette fire sale, there were not constant lists of interested teams or any of the steady drumbeat of rumors.
My standard response to baseball rumors remains: “Probably nothing will happen.” The reason why I stick to that stance is because a lot of vague language gets thrown around that is likely to end up meaning nothing. In order for a rumor to really excite fans, a reporter must have spoken to someone who knows what they are talking about and is telling the truth about what they know, and if the information is true, it needs to be specific enough to be meaningful.
This does seem to meet the test of something that’s worth taking notice. Feinsand is a national reporter for MLB.com and can’t be dismissed as a nobody who works somewhere with no standards. The information he has provided is detailed enough that it can’t be waved away as meaningless.
An early stage of a rumor that would be less exciting is “The Orioles are shopping Dylan Bundy.” Something like that tells us nothing about whether there have been talks, if they have been serious, or anything. Feinsand’s rumor is much farther down the road to where a deal “appears to be getting close.” So if he’s right, we could know before anyone eats Thanksgiving dinner, or at least before you’ve polished off all the leftovers over the rest of the weekend.
With only two seasons remaining before Bundy becomes a free agent, he is the sort of player who the Orioles will be looking to move in order to get some future value that will help the next good O’s team. A simple reality is that team isn’t going to arrive in 2020 or 2021.
The former #4 overall draft pick has never quite lived up to the draft hype of an expected top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Drafted by the O’s in 2011, Bundy was one of the last players to sign an MLB contract upon being drafted.
This proved significant when Bundy needed Tommy John surgery and then suffered from shoulder problems while working back from that injury: His minor league options were used up when he wasn’t healthy enough to actually develop in the minors as a pitcher. The Orioles had to have Bundy on the roster in 2016, and since he didn’t have a track record of throwing a full season of innings, he had to learn in the bullpen.
Even after Bundy struggled mightily in the 2018 season, allowing an MLB-high 41 home runs on the way to a 5.45 ERA, I managed to get my hopes up for significant improvement under Elias and a new pitching philosophy. That didn’t happen, so Bundy finished with a 4.79 ERA and 4.73 FIP. He did, at least, cut the home run rate.
When adjusted for park and league with the ERA+ stat, Bundy had a 99; 100 is average. So he was more or less an average guy in 2019. His K/9 of 8.8 is respectable, and his career BB/9 of 3.0 is fine.
There’s value in an average guy if you need one. There’s value in having that average guy receive a $5.7 million salary with nothing guaranteed for 2021 if he gets hurt or sucks. An average guy who is a free agent at 27 would probably require a multi-year contract at a greater annual cost than that and that could appeal to a penny-pinching contender or wannabe contender. There is probably not so much value that the Orioles will reap a massive return of prospects here. Perhaps we’ll find out over the next few days.
A Wednesday trade between the Brewers and Padres could offer some slight hint of what the market is like for a pitcher of this sort. Former Orioles farmhand Zach Davies was dealt to the Padres along with underperforming outfield once-prospect Trent Grisham, with the Brewers receiving young infielder Luis Urias, who was a top 25 prospect in many rankings before the season, as well as lefty starter Eric Lauer.
Davies, like Bundy, is a free agent following the 2021 season. Though he’s never had overwhelming stuff, he’s succeeded without getting many strikeouts in this era of MLB, with a 3.91 career ERA and 4.22 FIP. The Orioles could have used a guy like that in their rotation more than they could have used Gerardo Parra, for whom Davies was traded, in 2015. I’m sorry for beating that dead horse again.
This wasn’t a one-for-prospects swap, as all of the players had MLB experience, so even if Bundy is a less valuable Davies, it’s tough to say what that’s worth in terms of what the O’s might be looking for. It may be that the Brewers have successfully bought low on Urias, who batted just .223/.329/.326 in his rookie season, or it may be that the Padres managed to cash in on a fading ex-prospect before the reality of more MLB failure dashes his value entirely.