The Twins signed Dylan Bundy to a 1-year, $5 million deal on Wednesday night, with a $1 million buyout on an $11 million club option for 2023. The move came just hours before the MLB owners unanimously enforced a lockout of the players. The signing of Bundy shouldn’t alter the fact that the Twins front office receives a ‘doing the bare minimum’ grade in improving the starting rotation thus far in free agency. Frustratingly, we’ll have to wait to see how the story plays out. In Bundy, however, the Twins have signed a solid upside arm they hope will have a Robbie Ray type impact season in 2023.
What range of outcomes does Bundy offer? How might the Twins tweak his approach to maximize a high upside play? Let’s dig into the numbers.
Conveniently, Bundy has shown his entire range of outcomes in his past two seasons with the Angels. Last season, he was rancid. In 90 2/3 innings he managed a 6.06 ERA (4.83 xERA), a 21.2% K%, and 0.0 fWAR. Woof. Conversely, in the shortened 2020 season over 65 2/3 innings, he managed a 3.29 ERA (3.02 xERA), 27% strikeout%, and 2.0 fWAR, that’s a 6.0 fWAR pace over a full season, phew!
To put that all visually, here is 2020 and 2021 next to each other.
In incredibly simple terms, a Bundy season splitting the difference of those two outcomes would generate approximately a 2.5 fWAR season which is nothing to be sneezed at and a solid start to what needs to be an extensive overhaul of a non-existent rotation for the Twins before the 2022 season kicks off. So what attracted the Twins to Bundy, and how might they try and tweak his approach next season?
Here’s what attracted the Twins to Dylan Bundy.
Bundy has a nasty slider. In 2020, he threw it 25% of the time. In 2021, he threw it just 21%. Expect that figure to skyrocket in 2022. It’s by far his best pitch and was worth over four runs in 2021. The Twins will have him throw it 30% of the time or more.
It’s notable that Bundy’s slider location was one of the primary reasons he struggled in 2021. In 2020, the heat map has it right in the corner of the strike zone, as opposed to far more centrally located in 2021. Regaining command of that pitch will be critical to his success in 2022.
Another reason the Twins were likely attracted to Bundy is his fastball. Long gone are the days when Bundy was a top prospect throwing his fastball in the high-90s. It does, however, have an extremely high spin rate, the Twins’ most obvious fastball-related tendency. Bundy’s formula with the Twins will be fastballs high in the zone a la Jake Odorizzi and a high volume of sliders down and away to right-handed hitters.
In my opinion, there’s not much to dislike about the Bundy move. He’s a high upside play who can easily be a solid number three starting pitcher on a great contract. The nagging question which will gnaw at Twins fans throughout the lockout and make it difficult to focus on the positives of the Bundy signing in isolation, was tweeted by John Bonnes yesterday. ‘Do the Twins front office love good contracts more than good players?’ We'll have to wait and see.