There has been very little chatter on free agent right-hander Dylan Bundy since the Twins declined his $11 million club option for 2023 back in early November. The 30-year-old managed to stay mostly healthy last season in Minnesota, outside of a short COVID-19 IL stint in May, but that run of better health didn’t exactly yield the kind of bounceback campaign that the Twins — and now other teams — were looking for.
Across his 29 starts, covering 140 innings, Bundy struggled to a 4.89 ERA (79 ERA+, 21 points below league average) and he also registered by far the lowest strikeout rate of his career. His measly K/9 of 6.04 ranked third-worst among the 71 major leaguers who logged at least 140 innings in 2022. Granted, veteran starter Johnny Cueto was even more inferior in that regard (5.75 K/9) and yet he managed to score a one-year, $8.5MM contract from the Marlins that can max out at two years, $16.5MM if Miami also picks up his option for 2024.
The one calling card for Bundy, if he can’t recapture a bit more swing-and-miss, is that he does have impeccable control. He ranked in just the 8th percentile of all MLB pitchers last year in strikeout percentage and finished in the 15th percentile in whiff rate, but his BB percentage of 4.7 was a 93rd-percentile triumph of sorts. On the flip side there, he served up 151 hits and 24 home runs to the 595 batters he faced. Pitchers that are forced into more of a contact-inviting approach must ensure that it is soft contact, and Bundy did not meet that objective. That he’s being forced into a change at all at a relatively young age doesn’t speak well of the long-term outlook for the No. 4 overall pick from the 2011 MLB Draft. His fastball continues to lose velocity (89.2 mph average last year, compared to 93.8 mph in 2016) and his slider, curveball and changeup have all been rendered rather ineffective as out-inducing offerings.
Bundy is probably looking to land in a pitcher-friendly environment, but he had that with the Twins and it sure seems like he won’t get much of a choice of destinations in the end. Maybe the Cardinals would like to build out better rotation depth before camp gets underway in Jupiter, Florida? They’re asking a lot of Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz and a 41-year-old Adam Wainwright as that roster currently stands. Or perhaps the White Sox might be a fit, what with Mike Clevinger currently under investigation following allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. Keep in mind that this is a World Baseball Classic year and the door to a job on a contender could suddenly swing open.
The long list of projected non-contenders with rotation holes includes the Pirates, Nationals, Royals … and, well, the Rockies. Boston, sitting kind of on the borderline between contention and non-contention for 2023, could come into the picture here if things fall flat with Michael Wacha, who is still on the hunt for a multi-year deal. We’ve already seen how a younger and stronger version of Bundy plays in the AL East, and it was rarely pretty, but it’s not like there are a ton of established MLB starters languishing out on the open market. Wacha is the only one left that cracked MLBTR’s Top 50 list.
Bundy’s best showing on the mound came in 2020, the COVID-shortened season, when he rolled to a 3.29 ERA with 72 strikeouts (and only 17 walks) in 65 2/3 innings for the Angels. He received one third-place vote and one fifth-place vote for the AL Cy Young Award that year, the only time in his career that he’s been included on any BBWAA ballots. Shane Bieber ultimately took home the hardware in unanimous fashion, with Bundy placing 9th. And, again, this current version of Bundy looks quite different than that one.