Dylan Bundy, who was traded Wednesday to the Los Angeles Angels for four right-handed pitching prospects, never turned out to be the star pitcher the Orioles envisioned when he was the fourth overall draft pick in 2011.
At the time, the Orioles were accumulating a boatload of young talent. They had drafted Nick Markakis, Zack Britton, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, and had made shrewd deals for J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Chris Tillman.
Bundy, who was an acclaimed high school pitcher, was added to the mix, and manager Buck Showalter was excited by the thought of Bundy in his rotation.
Bundy signed in August, too late to pitch in 2011, but he was fast-tracked to the majors. At 19, Bundy dominated South Atlantic League hitters in Delmarva and moved quickly from Low-A to High-A Frederick and then to Double-A Bowie.
Showalter sent an injured veteran, Hall of Famer Jim Thome, to scout Bundy one night in Bowie. Thome came away impressed but Showalter tried to be cautious.
Bundy walked eight hitters in 16 2/3 innings with the Baysox, and Showalter said: “Four walks in Bowie is more walks here.”
At the end of Bowie’s season, Bundy went down to Sarasota. But after the Orioles played an 18-inning game in Seattle, there was a change in plans. Bundy was to meet the team two days later in Boston.
The teenager pitched twice for the Orioles in 2012 but wasn’t included on their playoff roster.
Unfortunately, the next year didn’t start well, and Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013.
The next two years were full of stops and starts. A shoulder injury curtailed his 2015 season but because of Bundy’s early call-up in 2012, the Orioles had to put him on the major league roster in 2016 because he was out of options.
In the first half of 2016, Bundy was an effective addition to the bullpen. After the All-Star break, Showalter inserted him into the rotation.
He finished 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA. In 2017, his first full season as a starter, Bundy was 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA but his walks and hits were down.
As the Orioles bottomed out in 2018, so did Bundy, allowing a major league-high 41 home runs. His 8-16 record and 5.45 ERA didn’t make him attractive on the trade market. He posted better numbers in 2019 — allowing 12 fewer home runs and dropping his ERA — and general manager Mike Elias decided the time was right to make the deal with the Angels.
While his 7-14 record and 4.79 ERA weren’t impressive, he had 2.3 WAR, the second highest of his career.
Unlike last July’s deal for Andrew Cashner and Monday’s trade of infielder Jonathan Villar, which netted three raw players, Bundy fetches four right-handed pitchers, including one, Isaac Mattson, who reached Triple-A in 2019.
Mattson, who went to the University of Pittsburgh, had a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.
Two of the pitchers in the deal, Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek, didn’t pitch after being drafted by the Angels, and the other, Kyle Bradish, pitched in the High-A California League, which is equivalent to Frederick.
Now that Elias has made two deals this week, shedding two of the seven arbitration-eligible players, he could always trade reliever Mychal Givens, but so far it doesn’t appear as if he’s found a match.
The most attractive player the Orioles have is slugger Trey Mancini, but the market for first baseman/outfielders isn’t as robust as it is for starting pitchers.
Bundy’s departure leaves a hole in the Orioles’ rotation. With John Means and Alex Cobb, Bundy’s presence could have made the Orioles presentable in 2020. Presumably, Asher Wojciechowski will return to the starting rotation, and Elias will have to find a couple more starters to fill out the rotation.
With a productive draft last year, seven players acquired for Cashner, Villar and Bundy and a class of international players signed last July, Elias appears to have started his “elite talent pipeline.”
The team should net more quality players in next June’s draft because they pick second.
In Wednesday’s conference call, Elias praised the players his predecessor, Dan Duquette, drafted and acquired in the bevy of trades in July 2018.
The Orioles have a farm system that’s rated in the Top 10 by some minor league observers. And if the team has another disappointing record in 2020, there will be another opportunity to draft high.
In bidding farewell to Bundy, Elias said: “He has done a lot for the Orioles. He has laid it on the line at all times for the Orioles.”
Bundy was a professional who never made excuses. He was honest, if brief, in his postgame assessments.
Bundy didn’t live up to the hype that came with being a highly touted high school pitcher who signed for $6.2 million.
He goes to the Angels for a fresh start with a club that will be more competitive than the Orioles and will pitch in a bigger ballpark. The guess here is that he’ll be more successful in Southern California than he was in Baltimore.
NOTE: The Orioles signed infielder Dilson Herrera to a minor league contract. Herrera, who is 25, hit .203 in 102 major leagues games with the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds in 2014, 2015 and 2018.
In 2019, Herrera hit 24 home runs while batting .248 for the Mets’ Triple-A Syracuse team. Herrera drove in 64 runs and had an .832 OPS.
Herrera, a right-handed hitter, is primarily a second baseman but also has played left field and first base in the major leagues.