Re-Signing Jake Odorizzi Needs to be a Priority for the Minnesota Twins
Image courtesy of Peter Aiken, USA TodayWednesday afternoon was the deadline for Major League players to accept or decline the one-year, $18.9M qualifying offers that they were offered. Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman were two of those players, and each of them opted to accept the one-year offer and re-join the Mets and Giants respectively.
This was major news for the Minnesota Twins as Stroman and Gausman were both pitchers who made a lot of sense as free agent targets for the reigning AL Central champions. With Trevor Bauer likely a pipe dream for the Twins and Tanaka likely returning in pinstripes next season, Stroman and Gausman were in that next tier of free agent starting pitchers with tremendous upside at a more reasonable cost. Now that they are both off the table, the list of impact starting pitchers has been trimmed considerably. Left in that group are James Paxton, who has injury concerns and will need to be pried away from the Yankees, José Quintana, who doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, Charlie Morton, who has already expressed a desire to stay on the east coast, and a name that Minnesota Twins fans are very familiar with — Jake Odorizzi.
Jake Odorizzi has had an up-and-down tenure with the Minnesota Twins over the past three seasons. After a shaky debut in 2018, Odorizzi added velocity to his fastball in 2019 and posted the best season of his career, with an all-star appearance and a 3.51 ERA. 2020 was, unfortunately, a lost season for Odorizzi, who battled injuries all year and was only able to throw 13 2/3 innings.
Because of his lost season in 2020, it’s easy to forget just how dominant of a pitcher Odorizzi was in 2019. While Kenta Maeda just posted an incredible season for the Minnesota Twins en route to finishing second in American League Cy Young voting, Jake Odorizzi had arguably a better 60-game stretch to start the 2019 season. Over the first 60 games of the 2019 season, Odorizzi bested Maeda in both ERA and FIP.
Some additional highlights from Odorizzi’s 2019 season:
- Odorizzi’s ERA+ of 131 is the second best single-season number by a Twins pitcher since 2010.
- Odorizzi’s K/9 of 10.08 remains the third best single-season K/9 in Twins history after Tom Hall in 1970 and Johan Santana in 2004.
- Odorizzi delivered the best pitching performance for the Minnesota Twins in the 2019 postseason, allowing just two earned runs in five innings while striking out five in Game 3 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees.
Assuming that the price tag is within range of what the Minnesota Twins are looking to spend, the key question will be what the interest level is for Odorizzi to return to the Land of 10,000 lakes on a potential multi-year contract. All signs point to Odorizzi enjoying his time with the Minnesota Twins, and a great fit with Wes Johnson as his pitching coach. However, after the qualifying offer kept him from cashing in on a long-term deal last offseason, as well as being held out of the 2020 postseason, it’s fair to wonder if Odorizzi is ready to move onto a different franchise and hopefully find better luck elsewhere.
As currently constructed the Minnesota Twins would be relying on Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak as their fourth and fifth starting pitchers, with the hope of a younger prospect such as Jhoan Duran making an impact later in the season. With championship aspirations in mind, the Twins simply need to add more impact pitching. The trade market will certainly be something the Twins will look to explore this offseason, but adding an impact starting pitcher via free agency is another area the Twins will need to capitalize on. While it’s often tempting to look outside the organization for those impact free agents, the Minnesota Twins don’t need to look far to bring back their impact pitcher, as Jake Odorizzi would be a huge piece to kick-start a big season in 2021.
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