Dylan Bundy’s time with the Orioles could be coming to an end. The right-handed pitcher, whom the O’s drafted fourth overall in 2011, has two seasons of team control remaining, but reports from last week indicate that the club is looking to trade the 27-year-old.
It’s a decision that makes sense, even for the pitching-starved Birds. Bundy has been a steady contributor to a rotation that has, otherwise, lacked consistency. But he has fallen short of his sky-high expectations as a prospect and could benefit from a change of scenery. A deal here could be a “win” for all involved.
Of course, Orioles GM Mike Elias isn’t going to let Bundy go for peanuts. After all, he is still one of the team’s better pitchers, and while the O’s aren’t exactly looking to compete in 2020, they still need to survive the season. So, what could a swap of Bundy land the Orioles in return?
First, let’s establish what Bundy’s value is on the field. As mentioned before, he has been steady. Not great. Not a disaster. Steady. Over parts of five seasons (2012, 2016-2019) the Oklahoma native has tossed 614.1 innings over 127 games (103 starts) and compiled a 4.67 ERA in the process. That’s good for a career ERA+ of 95, a WHIP of 4.75 and an xFIP of 4.56.
Bundy fell just short of qualifying for any leader boards in 2019. Had he qualified, he would have ranked 58th out of 61 pitchers in ERA (4.79), 25th in K/9 (9.02), 46th in BB/9 (3.11), 44th in xFIP (4.58) and 39th in fWAR (2.5).
Again, the evidence speaks for itself. Bundy has not exactly carved up opposing lineups. But he has been good enough to trot out to the mound every fifth day and compete in the major leagues. That would provide value as a back-end rotation piece with the upside that comes as being a former top five draft pick, especially for a competitive team in a pitcher-friendly park.
Another piece of the value pie is how much Bundy will be paid. Arbitration salaries have not been finalized yet, but MLB Trade Rumors projects Bundy to make $5.7 million in 2020, which is quite reasonable given his production.
With Bundy’s on-field value established, we can move on to what that translates to in a trade. The only way to do this is to look at past deals involving players of similar value.
Back in July, the Mariners dealt righty Mike Leake to the Diamondbacks in exchange for 23-year-old minor league infielder Jose Caballero. Leake had 1.5 seasons of team control remaining and had a 4.27 ERA, 102 ERA+ through 137 innings with the Mariners at the time of the deal. However, he also came with a $16 million salary in 2019 and $15 million in 2020. Bundy is likely worth a bit more than Leake.
Also in July, the Blue Jays sent 27-year-old righty Aaron Sanchez to the Houston Astros in a trade that netted them outfielder Derek Fisher, who was once a top 100 prospect. However, that trade also required Toronto to part with pitcher Joe Biagini and outfielder Cal Stevenson. Sanchez was a Cy Young contender in 2016, but fell off drastically, posting a 6.07 ERA in 23 starts for the Blue Jays prior to the deal. This one is tough to compare to Bundy being sold alone.
Last December, two different deals went down that could draw comparisons to a Bundy trade. The Nationals sent Tanner Roark to the Reds for 26-year-old reliever Tanner Rainey. Roark had one year of team control remaining, but was coming off of a 4.34 ERA season over 180.1 innings in 2018. Ivan Nova was also traded that month, from the Pirates to the White Sox for minor leaguer pitcher Yordi Rosario and $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money. Nova also had just one year of team control remaining.
There were other, more high-profile, trades to take place in the last year. James Paxton went from the Mariners to the Yankees. The Diamondbacks dealt Zack Greinke last summer. But those transactions aren’t in the same stratosphere as a move involving Bundy.
The Orioles have time to sit and think about a trade involving Bundy. The winter meetings are still a few days away, and teams are always looking for starting pitching. There will be no shortage of suitors. But the offers are likely to underwhelm the Birdland faithful. It’s not necessarily because the industry doesn’t value what Bundy brings to the table, but rather a result of Bundy being nothing more than an average pitcher to this point in his career.
What the righty does have going for him is two years of team control and a modest salary. Those two factors should allow the Orioles to receive more than what the teams involved in the Leake, Roark and Nova deals did. That doesn’t mean that the O’s will land a blue chip prospect in the process, but it should present Elias with enough options from which to pick a favorable return.