The Orioles are getting exactly what they need from one of their keys to a successful season. That sounds strange to say for a team that has the worst record in baseball, but if you look back about six weeks, there was one big thing everyone was pointing to as crucial to the team’s success. It’s the development of their two young starting pitchers, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. The pair has been great, there’s no other way to put it really. Both have taken steps to be productive members of the rotation, something that appeared to be vital to any hope the O’s had of being competitive. Now, the being competitive part might be out the window already, despite the fact that we aren’t yet to Memorial Day. But it’s certainly not the fault of both Bundy and Gausman.
Bundy has run into a pair of speed bumps in his last two outings, giving up a total of 12 earned runs in just nine innings. But prior to that, he had pitched to a 1.42 ERA across 31 2/3 innings in five starts. The latest two starts have allowed his ERA to balloon up to 3.76 on the season, which is still respectable. I realize that I’m playing with the numbers a bit and picking from a small overall sample size, but you can see that Bundy has made strides in his pitching, as well. I don’t think anyone would venture that the 25-year-old’s latest starts are a sign of bad things on the horizon. In fact, they look more like a blip on the radar.
For Gausman, it was his first start of the season that was an outlier. If you take that one out, when he gave up six runs in four innings to the Twins, he’s pitched to a 2.27 ERA over 39 2/3 innings and six starts. It was all capped by Saturday night’s gem in Oakland, where he allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out six over nine shutout innings. That trimmed his ERA down to 3.30 on the year. He was also showing signs of being able to get stronger as the game went deeper on Saturday. His velocity was still holding in the mid-90s by the ninth inning.
While Bundy and Gausman’s seasons have not translated into success for the Orioles thus far, they could both play a crucial role in what the team does the rest of the way. If, or frankly when, the Birds decide it’s time to start building for the future and trading away players, there will be a decision when it comes to the two young starters. It may seem crazy to think about dealing either Bundy or Gausman, but there has to be a consideration as to how long a rebuild could take and how much team control will be left. Bundy can become a free agent in 2022, the same season as Alex Cobb. Gausman is scheduled to be a free agent a year earlier than that. If a rebuild is going to take three seasons after this one is complete, both of these players would be gone by that time. Their value also may never be higher than with team control in place.
In no way am I advocating that the Orioles go out and shop Bundy or Gausman. But I also would be taking phone calls on anyone as the season goes along. I think it’s fair to assume at this point that the Orioles are going to make their best attempt to trade away players like Manny Machado and perhaps even Zach Britton when he returns from injury. But they should also be considering using other players that may be considered building blocks when they actually have more value as something aside from a rental for another club. That’s how a haul of prospects can come back in a deal. It’s something worth considering, because at this point, even one of the most important keys to the Orioles having success this year isn’t unlocking any doors.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.