The headline you see above has four teams, and there are but three free agent pitchers who are objectively better than Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi: Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn. Thus, it would appear to this writer that Jake Odorizzi will be traded, assuming that all of these teams—reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times have significant interest in adding a starter to their rotation. Not included in the headline is the Baltimore Orioles, who “possibly” have interest in Odorizzi and currently have a projected starting rotation of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and three shrug emojis.
It’s no secret that the Rays are rebuilding, having already traded Brad Boxberger and Evan Longoria while losing Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek and, eventually, Alex Cobb to free agency. And, to boot, I currently project their payroll over at Roster Resource to be a good $6 million higher than last season’s (this does not yet include Sergio Romo’s contract), meaning they’re probably not done yet.
Enter Odorizzi. The right-hander’s arbitration hearing just occurred today, and will earn either $6.05 or $6.3 million, as determined by an independent arbiter. Odorizzi made 28 starts in 2017, but pitched just 1431⁄3 frames, averaging out to just barely over five innings per start. Odorizzi’s strikeout rate of 21% was right in line with his career mark, but his 10.1% walk rate was well above his career norm, and that along with a middling 4.14 ERA and a staggering 30 home runs allowed contributed to him ultimately being viewed as essentially replacement level by both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.
While that paints a bit of a poor picture, Odorizzi was quite good in the two prior years, combining for a 3.53 ERA over 61 starts, worth 6.6 wins, per Baseball-Reference. Teams looking to acquire him would obviously be banking on a performance closer to those two seasons, as the Rays are very likely looking for more than just salary relief and/or prospect lottery tickets.
The aforementioned Orioles have the most glaring rotation need of the team interested, but the Twins just lost Ervin Santana for the first 4-6 weeks of the season due to finger surgery, and are in dire need of one if not two starting pitchers. The Angels and Brewers each have plenty of starting options, but no clear ace—not that Odorizzi would give them one, so those teams seem like odd fits to me. The Cardinals have something of a set rotation but injury risk abound and could always use another starter as they attempt to catch up to the Cubs.
Odorizzi is under team control through the 2019 season and is entering his age-28 season.