The Orioles have some attractive commodities if they choose to trade this offseason. Infielder Jonathan Villar, who could be traded before the December 2 deadline for offering 2020 contracts, is a possibility. Reliever Mychal Givens might fall into the same category.
The Orioles also have a starting pitcher who might interest other teams, Dylan Bundy.
Bundy was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft. Because of Tommy John surgery in 2013, Bundy didn’t make an impact on the team until 2016.
He started that season in the Orioles’ bullpen. Just after the All-Star break, he was moved to the starting rotation and was a revelation, pitching to a 10-6 record and a 4.02 ERA.
In 2017, he was a full-time starter and pitched well with a 13-9 record and 4.24 ERA, allowing just over eight hits per nine innings.
But 2018 was awful. Bundy led the major leagues in home runs allowed,, 41, just over two per nine innings. His ERA ballooned to 5.45 and his record was 8-16.
Although his 2019 statistics aren’t impressive, they showed improvement. Bundy’s record was 7-14 with a 4.79 ERA, but in a record year for home runs, he allowed 29, 1.6 per nine innings.
According to BaseballReference.com, Bundy’s WAR in 2019 was 2.3, just below the 2.7 measured in 2017. He measured higher in FanGraphs with a 2.5 WAR.
Because he fell just a third of an inning short of 162, Bundy isn’t measured in FanGraphs’ starting pitchers’ stats, but the 2.5 WAR equates to equal value with two accomplished postseason pitchers, St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas and Washington’s Anibal Sanchez.
It puts him ahead of more renowned pitchers — the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, Oakland’s Brett Anderson, Houston’s Wade Miley, Boston’s Rick Porcello and the Athletics’ Mike Fiers, each of whom won at least 13 games and pitched for better teams.
There would be a robust market for Bundy if the Orioles decided to trade him now. Bundy would have a better record on a more competitive team, and the Orioles would be justified in asking for an attractive package for him.
In 2019, Bundy’s percentage of groundballs induced increased to 41.5 percent, highest in his career. With an infield like the team had in its glory days, with J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, Bundy’s record would have been better than it was.
Bundy was given slightly more leeway in his starts than other Oriole pitchers by manager Brandon Hyde. He was the only pitcher to face a team’s leadoff hitter a fourth time but never got past 7 1/3 innings.
In his 30 starts, Bundy threw more than 100 pitches just five times and never struck out more than eight. During the season there was brief concern when his velocity dipped, but there was nothing to worry about.
Bundy, who has had three pitching coaches since he became an established big leaguer in 2016, adjusted well to Doug Brocail, who took over the job in 2019.
He allowed more than two home runs in a game just once, on April 11, when he gave up four to Oakland, and allowed only nine in 13 starts after the All-Star break.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Bundy could earn $5.7 million in arbitration, far below the $10.4 million Villar could expect.
Bundy has two more seasons before he can file for free agency, and those two years of club control and improving stats on a bad club would make him a prime target — if the Orioles are considering trading him now.
The attractiveness of the package could sway Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias, but for now, the Orioles need Bundy.
With Bundy, a returning Alex Cobb and John Means anchoring the rotation, it would give some needed stability in the first half of 2020.
The Orioles aren’t likely to start the season with Keegan Akin or Dean Kremer in their rotation, and until Elias thinks they’re ready to contribute, they might need to keep Bundy for stability.
If they trade him this offseason, they’ll have a patchwork rotation, and one that would put undue pressure on their young relievers, Hunter Harvey and Dillon Tate.
The Orioles’ bullpen in 2019 was awful, compiling a 5.79 ERA. Better starting pitching would mean fewer innings for an unproven bullpen that could be without Givens, if he’s traded.
By the July 31 trading deadline, the Orioles’ rotation could include Akin and/or Kremer and conceivably other young starters. If Bundy continues his improvement in the first half of next season, the 27-year-old could bring an even better package of prospects in return.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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