For the second time in three days, Orioles general manager Mike Elias made a deal involving one of the Orioles’ front-line players.
After trading infielder Jonathan Villar to the Miami Marlins for 23-year-old left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas on Monday, the Orioles traded starting pitcher Dylan Bundy — the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft — to the Los Angeles Angels for four pitching prospects on Wednesday.
Bundy, 27, was 38-45 with a 4.67 ERA in his Oriole career. In 2019, Bundy was 7-14 with a 4.79 ERA.
In return, the Orioles received four right-handed pitchers: Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich, Isaac Mattson and Zach Peek.
Elias said during a conference call that the trade of Bundy “represents a big step towards our stated goals to accumulate and develop as much young talent as possible as the club rebuilds its roster and gets our talent level back to the level needed for consistent playoff contention.”
He said that the Orioles had been working on the trade with Los Angeles for weeks. Other clubs were in the mix, too, he said.
“We felt that the fit and the package of the players coming back from the Anaheim was the best deal available to us,” Elias said.
Elias, who praised Bundy after the Villar trade on Monday, spoke highly of him again Wednesday.
“He has done a lot for the Orioles,” Elias said. “He has laid it on the line at all times for the Orioles.”
Bundy’s departure leaves another hole in the starting rotation. For now, John Means, who finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and Alex Cobb, who missed almost all of last season because of hip and knee surgery, are the only established pitchers.
Asher Wojciechowski, who started for the team in the second half of the season, is a strong contender for the third spot.
“We’re thin to begin with, and we’re taking one of the stalwarts out of our rotation just like we did last year with [Andrew] Cashner,” said Elias, who traded Cashner to Boston last July. “To get where we need to go, these are the types of moves and decisions we have to make right now.”
Elias said his goal is to fill those holes with prospects within the organization.
“I think, ultimately, we may see many of those rotation spots inhabited by guys that were already in the organization that were either in Triple-A last year or going to be in Triple-A for the first time this year,” he said.
“I think we’re really having some pitchers starting to knock on the doors of the big leagues.”
Keegan Akin, Michael Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann are among those prospects.
“We don’t want to rush them,” Elias said. “We also don’t know if and when they’re going to be ready, so we do plan on supplementing our core of starting pitching candidates from outside the organization, whether it’s major league free agency or minor league free agency.
“I think we’re going to be bringing in competition for the rotation so that we’re not in a situation where we’re having to do something to one of our prospects that’s not best for his development.”
Bradish, 23, was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft. He was 6-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 24 games for High-A Inland Empire in 2019.
Brnovich, 22, was the Angels’ eighth-round pick in this year’s draft. He did not pitch professionally after being drafted out of Elon University.
Mattson, 24, was a 19th-round pick of the Angels in 2017. In 2019, Mattson was 6-3 with a 2.33 ERA in 37 games with Inland Empire, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake.
Peek, 21, did not pitch professionally this season after being drafted in the sixth round out of Winthrop University.
Unlike the deal that sent Cashner to Boston for the second half of the 2019 season and Villar to Miami, free agency isn’t looming for Bundy. The Angels get a player with two years of club control remaining.
“We’ve all got our eyes on a bigger goal, and in order to get there, we’re going to need to bring as much young talent into the farm system as we possibly can,” Elias said.
“Sometimes you have to give up good quality off your major league roster.”
Elias knows that 2020, which was going to be challenging before making the Villar and Bundy deals, is likely to be even more difficult now.
“To get where we need to go, these are the types of moves, the types of decisions we have to make,” he said. “It’s a tough spot that we’re in. We’ve got a long climb ahead of us.”
Many fans were displeased with the trade of Villar and could be unhappy with this one, too. The Orioles have few accomplished players remaining on their roster.
“I want to see a playoff team at Camden Yards,” Elias said. “There is only one way to get there, given where we’re at, where we’re starting from. We all know the strategy and the process.
“This is not easy. This is not something we want to happen again. But coming into the organization in late 2018 with the roster construction what it was, what the talent base was in the organization, where we were in the standings, this was the only path.”
Elias was asked about possible trades of reliever Mychal Givens and first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini. Givens has two years of club control remaining. Mancini has three.
“We will be careful to see the right return if we move anyone else,” he said. “There is certainly no guarantee that we will be moving anyone else.”
Attendance has plummeted over the last two years with the Orioles selling more than 700,000 fewer tickets in 2019 than they did in 2017.
“There’s going to be some more difficult decisions on the way,” Elias said. “Some more tough times, but overall the organization is improving and the level of talent in the organization is improving. This will have been worth it, and put our team and our fanbase in a better long-term setting.”