The Orioles are facing an important decision on Dylan Bundy. Actually, it’s not much of a decision. They probably don't have a choice.
When Bundy signed a contract in 2011, it was a major league deal. At the time it was common for top draft choices to sign those. Since then, they’ve been bargained out of existence, and first round picks sign minor league contracts, sometimes with invitations to major league spring training. That's what 2013 pick Hunter Harvey did.
It didn’t seem like a big deal in 2011, and barely a year later when Bundy briefly made it to the big leagues, it seemed irrelevant.
Now, it’s not only relevant, but it could cost both Bundy and the Orioles, and there’s really no way around it.
Bundy, who has pitched 168 2/3 innings since 2012, is now far behind where the Orioles hoped he’d be.
Next year, he’ll have no options left, and if the Orioles want to keep him, as they most certainly do, since they’ve invested money and time on him, Bundy will have to be on the major league roster.
After his terrific 2012 season where he advanced from Delmarva to Frederick to Bowie, and finally to Baltimore, the Orioles would probably have started him back at Double-A in 2013.
But, Bundy wasn’t healthy and didn’t pitch at all two years ago. He had Tommy John surgery in June, and a year later was back pitching.
Last year, Bundy pitched just 41 1/3 innings for Aberdeen and Frederick, and after a healthy winter, the Orioles were hoping for big things from him.
After 22 innings with the Baysox, Bundy was shut down. Tendinitis in his right shoulder has prevented him from pitching, and it’s likely we won’t see him until January minicamp.
Bundy will have to be on next year’s big league roster, and that’s a shame because he almost certainly won’t be ready to pitch in the majors next April.
But, because Bundy negotiated a major league contract, he now can’t be sent to the minors without passing through waivers, and he’d be eagerly snapped up.
Had Bundy remained healthy in 2013, he probably would have been in the big leagues before midseason and lived happily ever after.
Now, he may get to the big leagues without ever having pitched at Triple-A.
Of course, the Orioles may start him on the disabled list next season, and he could pitch for 30 days in the minors on a rehab assignment, but they don’t have the latitude to keep him there.
The Orioles will in effect have a Rule 5 pick, and they won’t have the innings available in the minors to build him up as a starter.
Bundy will have to go to the bullpen, and he may be effective, but forcing him to stay in the majors may not be in his best interest—or the Orioles.