Dylan Bundy - Baltimore Orioles pitching
Image Credit: Keith Allison

Now I know what you’re thinking..

“How could the Orioles possibly trade their best pitcher?!”

I get it. It’s certainly a tough pill to swallow. But in my opinion, it’s the kind of decision the team has to make in order to get this rebuild headed in the right direction. Here’s four reasons why I think the O’s move Bundy:

1. Maximize Bundy’s Value

Dylan Bundy has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the league this season. Following last night’s eight dominant, shutout innings against the potent Red Sox lineup, Bundy has now thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings, while striking out 32 over his last four starts.

If you take out his outlying seven ER in 0.0 inning start on May 8 against the AL Central cellar-dweller Royals, Bundy posts a strong 2.9 ERA in 83.2 innings pitched in 2018. He has a career ERA of just over 4.00, and it starting to seem like he’s ready to live up to his fourth overall pick potential.

Bundy is also under team control for the next three full seasons. This seems to be the major factor in teams parting ways with top tier prospects. With the significant impact that young, talented prospects are making in today’s game, teams are more and more weary on trading cheap, controllable players for “rentals.” While I don’t think this will limit what the Orioles get back for Manny Machado this July, many baseball writers and analysts have voiced their opinions about the Orioles not maximizing their value. Trading Bundy while he’s dominating on the field, AND while he remains a long-term, cost effective starter, could really get something in return.

2. Health

Bundy is in the midst of his second full season as a starter at the major league level. Riddled by injuries throughout his minor league career, including Tommy John surgery and a shoulder reconstruction, Bundy was basically forced up to the big leagues in 2016. If the Orioles didn’t keep him on the active 25-man roster to start the season, they would’ve almost surely lost him because of his rule five status. Despite being somewhat unprepared, Bundy has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, and has shown no signs of his past injuries.

Capitalizing on their young-ace being fully healthy could be a major factor in maximizing their return. If the Orioles hang onto Bundy for the next few years and try to flip him at the deadline before his free agency in the winter of 2021, they’re rolling the dice on Bundy remaining healthy. Orioles fans are all too familiar with their homegrown talent succumbing to injury (see Hunter Harvey.)

It’s important that the Orioles make the most of Bundy’s health, so we don’t have another Zach Britton on our hands. Britton had one of the most dominant single seasons a closer has ever had in MLB history in 2016. Heading into 2017 there were a flurry of trade rumors. Nothing got done. Heading into the 2017 trade deadline, again, there were a plethora of trade talks surrounding the Orioles’ lefty, but nothing got done. Britton struggled last season, and we all saw his value plummet compared to where it was at following the ’16 campaign. This past offseason, Britton injured himself working out, and the O’s are now hoping for a strong audition the last 6 weeks before the trade deadline just to receive a fraction of what they could’ve gotten in the winter of 2016.

3. Will the Orioles Compete by 2021?

Probably not. Following what will inevitably be back-to-back last place seasons and a fire-sale this July, the Orioles rebuild will be just beginning. Depending on what they can get in exchange for (potentially) Machado, Britton, Brad Brach, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and whoever else the O’s deal away, the future of the Orioles could be a few years away.

You also have to consider their direct competitors in the division. The Yankees are young, talented and poised to add even more talent this year in free agency. The Red Sox are in the same boat, and have much of their elite talent locked up for years to come. Overcoming these two juggernauts in major media markets has always been a challenge for the O’s, and it’s not going to get any easier as they likely will lose the core of their team.

Hanging onto Bundy for the duration of his rookie contract is running the risk of keeping Bundy for the longevity of the rebuild. It’s truly a possibility that with or without Bundy, the O’s could be looking up in the standings for years to come. Again, they should maximize Bundy’s value and try to expedite the rebuild with multiple talented prospects.

4. The Haul

It will take much more than one strong arm to make the Orioles competitive again. Bundy would also be the top pitcher on the trade block this season. Along with Mets RHP Jacob deGrom and Rangers lefty Cole Hamels, the Orioles could name their price on the open market, especially with Bundy’s lengthy team control.

The return would be sizable and potentially franchise altering if he goes to the right organization with minor league depth. While the wins wouldn’t be there for a few years to come, the amount of talent the Orioles could get back for Bundy would be significant. Like an Erik Bedard-type haul in exchange for their young right-hander.

Now is the time to do it. Hit the reset button all at once. Making these kind of difficult decisions eliminates potential future problems, and maximizes the team’s value.

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