Right-hander Dylan Bundy, one of the longest-tenured Orioles, was dealt Wednesday to the Los Angeles Angels for four pitching prospects — right-handers Isaac Mattson, Kyle Bradish, Zach Peek and Kyle Brnovich.
“This trade with Dylan Bundy was something we had been working on for weeks with the Angels, but also with several other clubs and ultimately we felt that the fit and the package and the players coming back from Anaheim was the best deal available to us,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said on a conference call.
“That said, it’s a bittersweet thing parting with Dylan. He has been in this organization since he was drafted in 2011. Nine years with the Orioles. He has done a lot for the Orioles. He has laid it all on the line at all times for the Orioles, always taken the ball, in this case well back beyond my short time here. ... We’re going to miss him. We have a hole in our rotation to fill, but as we’ve been doing in every move and every decision we’re making, we are eyeing the long-term benefit of the club, and to get four pitchers back whom we view as real prospects was too good to pass up.”
Bundy, a former top prospect who had long worked to live up to his potential, became another outgoing piece of the team’s continued teardown this offseason after infielder Jonathan Villar was traded earlier this week for a rookie-level pitching prospect. Elias repeated his long-held mantra that such moves are the only way to get the Orioles to long-term contention, even at short-term expense.
“We’ve all got our eyes on a bigger goal,” Elias said. “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. Sometimes, you have to give up good quality off your major-league roster to do that. We did exactly that.”
While the return for a player such as Villar, who commands a higher salary and has just one year of control, was just one player, Elias said this was a “worthy return for Dylan Bundy, and we view him highly, so that says something.”
Elias said the scouting process was a fun one since the players are recent draftees and both director of pro scouting Mike Snyder and domestic scouting supervisor Brad Ciolek were involved.
Mattson, 24, is closest to the majors of the four. A 2017 draftee, he jumped from High-A Inland Empire to Triple-A Salt Lake in 2019, striking out 110 with a 1.01 WHIP in 73 1/3 innings and a 2.33 ERA.
“If you look at his numbers, he’s been really dominant across the minor leagues, especially lately, just dominant wherever you send him,” Elias said.
Bradish, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick out of New Mexico State in 2018 and struck out 120 batters with a 1.42 WHIP and a 4.28 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) for Inland Empire.
“Bradish in particular is somebody that I have liked dating back to the 2018 draft,” Elias said. “He went out and straight into the Cal League, which is a nasty place to pitch, and pitched over 100 innings, struck out over 120 hitters coming from a small conference, from the WAC, conference in New Mexico State, and was one of the better pitchers in the California League last year over a very long body of work. Made the All-Star team. He’s got a very unique delivery, which can create some strong opinions about him one way or another. But he’s got four real pitches, all of which will show above-average at times, and he strikes out a lot of hitters. There’s a lot of things to like there.”
Peek, 21, and Brnovich, 22, were each 2019 draft picks, with Peek selected in the sixth round and Brnovich in the eighth, though neither pitched after signing.
Though none have the pedigree Bundy had when he was drafted fourth overall in 2011, the hope is the same: that they’ll be part of the next contending Orioles’ pitching staff.
Before elbow injuries stunted his progress, Bundy was baseball’s top prospect after the 2012 season. By 2016, Bundy was out of minor-league options and his major-league career began out of the Orioles’ bullpen. By midseason that year, he was in the rotation.
Bundy had a 4.02 ERA that year as the Orioles made their last playoff appearance, and has been a starter for them ever since, pitching on Opening Day in 2018. His first full season in the rotation in 2017 featured the reintroduction of his slider to his arsenal, giving Bundy a swing-and-miss pitch and allowing him to have what has proven to be his best season as a starter — 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA in 28 starts.
He hit the 30-start threshold in 2018 and again in 2019, but took a step back in those seasons. In 2018, Bundy had a 5.45 ERA and allowed a league-high 41 home runs. He cut that number down to 29 this season, and improved some as he worked to alter his pitch mix and work in his secondaries more in lieu of using a hittable fastball.
Because of those changes, there’s still the idea that getting Bundy to take another step with his secondary pitches and further embracing pitching that way could help him improve even more.
The Angels are taking that chance, and will have two seasons before Bundy reaches free agency.
Wednesday’s trade comes two days after the contract tender deadline for arbitration-eligible players Monday, a day when the Orioles signed left-hander Richard Bleier to a contract for 2020, tendered contracts to Trey Mancini, Mychal Givens, Hanser Alberto, Miguel Castro, and Bundy, and traded Villar to the Miami Marlins for minor-league pitcher Easton Lucas.
In trading Villar and now Bundy, the Orioles shed a projected $15 million in payroll for 2020 to two of their arbitration-eligible players who were forecast to make the most money of any of those seven initial eligible players.
The Orioles could end up having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball in 2020.
“With the goal of trying to get back to the playoffs, we’ve got a laser-focus on that, and we’re going to do what we feel is necessary to get this team to a point where we can fill the stadium on a consistent basis,” Elias said. “Like I said, it’s going to take some work. We’ve got our sleeves rolled up. There’s going to be some more difficult decisions on the way, some more tough times, but overall, the organization is improving the level of talent up and down the organization is improving. I think that this will have been worth it, and it will put our team and our fan base in a better long-term setting once we get where we need to go with the talent on the roster. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Bundy being dealt leaves a rotation that features All-Star left-hander John Means, a returning Alex Cobb, and Asher Wojciechowski. Elias said adding rotation depth would happen in the form of major league and minor league free agent signings to compete with the players already in the organization.