Minnesota Twins: Grading the Dylan Bundy Signing
By Otto Johnson
The Major League Baseball lockout is under way, and the Minnesota Twins came off the major win of signing Byron Buxton to an extension by addressing their pitching situation. Unfortunately for Twins fans, it wasn’t the major signing the team hoped:
The team signed Dylan Bundy to a 1 year, $4 million deal with a club option for 2023. That option will cost $11 million if enacted, but only $1 million to buyout, bringing the total guaranteed salary up to $5 million.
It’s time to grade the Minnesota Twins’ first signing, RHP Dylan Bundy.
Much like last year, when we graded all of the signings, Puckett’s Pond will once again grade the team’s free agency moves. The difference this year, after a brutal performance from cheap, high-upside guys in 2021, there might be a little more pessimism. Let’s get to it.
First, let’s take a look at Bundy as a player. The No. 4 overall selection by the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, Dylan Bundy was an extremely high upside arm who looked incredible in the minors before injuries took their toll. He only appeared in 17 games across the minors from 2013-2015, severely stunting his development.
When he did finally make the make the majors full time, he looked okay in 2016 and 2017, but he was awful in 2018 and 2019 before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels. There, over the 60 game season, Bundy posted the best numbers of his career:
- 11 GS, 65.2 IP, 6-3, 3.29 ERA (2.93 FIP), 1.036 WHIP, 72-17 K-BB Ratio
Bundy finally looked like he had turned a corner. Then 2021 happened, and it looked like all the progress he made was gone:
- 23 G, 19 GS, 90.2 IP, 2-9, 6.06 ERA (5.51 FIP), 1.357 WHIP, 84-34 K-BB Ratio
He entered free agency as a major question mark. Any team that took a chance is hoping that he can get back to those 2020 numbers. His analytic numbers and advanced stats suggest that there’s a real chance he can.
Per Baseball Savant, Bundy leaned more on his fastball in 2021 and less on his offspeed pitches, throwing the four-seamer 9% more than in 2020. His fastball, while his best pitch (his spin rate is in the 89th percentile in baseball) seemed to be a little more of a predictable.
His xERA of 4.83 in 2021 also suggests that some positive regression is headed his way in general. The fact that he went from in the 65th percentile or higher in every measurable category but two to the bottom 25th percentile in eight of those categories is telling. He won’t be that bad again in 2022.
A fun comparison is Robbie Ray, who posted a 6.97 ERA and had even worse metrics than Bundy did and turned around and won the Cy Young. I’m not saying Bundy will have a similar bounceback year, but their situations are comparable in that way (though Ray had better strikeout numbers and a little more past success).
Unfortunately the less-fun comparison is to Matt Shoemaker, who also had good bounceback potential, but was a complete disaster for the Minnesota Twins in 2021. Herein lies the question that makes grading this deal hard.
In a vacuum, this is a great deal. If the Minnesota Twins were a rebuilding team, adding Bundy on a cheap deal is brilliant. A pitcher who finished in the Top 10 Cy Young voting in 2020 for only $5 million with the possibility of the deal turning into two years, $15 million for a valuable trade chip or rotation piece? Awesome!
But the Twins aren’t in a vacuum. They’re not rebuilding. They’re trying to contend, and the only pitchers in their rotation are two very young starters (who still have a lot to prove). The team needs frontline starters. Can Bundy be that guy? There’s no guarantee.
Adding Bundy is a very low risk move for a rebuilder. For a contender, it’s incredibly risky. Risky moves didn’t work out well in 2021. Bundy is far more talented than Shoemaker, but it fits in the same lane.
If the Twins don’t add a starter better than Bundy, this grade is a D+, because the team will be rebuilding in 2022. If the Twins add three starters better than Bundy and Bundy, Ober, Ryan, and Dobnak compete for the last two spots, this deal is an A. Because we don’t know, the grade has to split that difference.