The Minnesota Twins are no doubt looking high and low for starting pitching help, and there’s a former No. 4 overall pick who just might be available as somewhat of a reclamation project.
The Baltimore Orioles are reportedly shopping Dylan Bundy, who was the top pitching prospect in baseball less than six years ago. Injuries, followed by a few seasons of ups and downs, and overall ineffectiveness have sapped his value.
Trading Bundy now is absolutely selling low on a distressed asset, although part of the appeal of trading for him would be that he still has two years of team control remaining; and that he is only projected to make $5.7 million in 2020, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
The Twins only have Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi in ink for next year’s starting rotation. Kyle Gibson signed with the Texas Rangers this week. Michael Pineda and Martin Perez remain free agents, although Perez ranked seventh out of seven in terms of importance when it came to players the Twins stood to lose this off season, according to yours truly.
Odorizzi was first in terms of importance, and after he surprised almost everyone by accepting the qualifying offer, he never even hit the open market. Pineda was third on my list, and there hasn’t been any word about what he or the Twins are thinking regarding his status. Remember, Pineda will miss roughly the first month of the season as he finishes up his PED suspension.
Let’s assume that the Twins will sign one pitcher among the top two tiers of free agent starters: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, and a few other less exciting options that would still improve the Twins’ rotation.
Depending on how the market shapes up, and what the Twins fork over to round out their top three starters, Pineda is an option as the No. 4 starter in the rotation. He was easily the Twins’ third-best starter for much of last summer, and it would make sense for them to consider bringing him back.
That leaves the No. 5 spot. For as much as Perez appeared to be a worthy reclamation project for most of the first half of the season, he tanked hard down the stretch. In 2020, the Twins would be well-served to find a higher-upside project for the No. 5 role, knowing that they have several arms waiting in the wings to fill in if needed: Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak, and, eventually, Brusdar Graterol.
Bundy fits the mold of a decent fifth starter and someone with massive upside. His career numbers (4.67 ERA and 1.33 WHIP while striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings) will play as a fifth starter and would be a clear upgrade from Perez.
Factor in that there was a reason he was the No. 4 pick in the draft in 2011 and that he is still just 27 years old, and there’s a lot to be said for taking a leap. The “change of scenery” gamble sure seems to hit a fair amount of the time, and the worst-case scenario is an upgraded No. 5 spot with a guy who can get some swings and misses.
What would the Orioles seek in return? It would surely take at least one and possibly two top-30 prospects, and likely a big-league ready player.
Someone like pitcher Lewis Thorpe, who had mixed results in his first taste of the big leagues and sits No. 11 on MLB.com’s prospect rankings, or maybe Smeltzer could headline the return for Baltimore, plus a lower-tier prospect that’s further away. Think someone in the No. 15 to 20 range on the Twins’ prospect list.
It would absolutely be a worthy gamble for the Twins to consider giving up one of their fringy big-league starters plus a prospect to solidify the No. 5 spot with considerable upside. Allowing Wes Johnson to try and work his magic on a former top prospect who is just entering what should be his prime.
If there’s one thing we know for sure about Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, it’s that they’ll leave no stone unturned in their search for talent. From thinking outside the box on a two-year, back-loaded deal for a guy undergoing Tommy John’s surgery in Pineda to making a savvy trade for the likes of Odorizzi, it’s fair to assume that they’ve inquired on Bundy.
Now, we just need to determine the asking price...