This is not a dismissal of Gibson. Far from it. I'm a believer in his emergence. Finally healthy and harnessing the full potential of his arsenal, he alternated between solid and filthy. His fastball clocked in at a career-high 93 MPH. Both his slider and curveball were among the league's toughest to hit in their respective categories.
Gibson has STUFF and SPIN, at a time where those assets are being scrutinized and valued as much as ever. If he follows up with another strong campaign next year, he's gonna be in demand, and he knows it. While I'm sure he'd like to stick with the Twins, I doubt he'll be cutting them any ultra-sweet deal.
Meanwhile, Odorizzi is coming off a second straight down year, by his standards anyway. Why extend him over Gibson?
I'll give you five good reasons.
1. Gibson is 31. Odorizzi is 28.
Odorizzi has thrown fewer career innings and has a strong bill of durability, with 28+ starts every season since 2014. Gibson isn't old, per se, but you could ink Odorizzi to a two-year extension and he'd be the same age when he finishes it as Gibby is now.
2. Odorizzi has a better track record than Gibson.
He's got a 3.95 career ERA and 1.24 WHIP, compared to 4.47 and 1.41 for Gibson. What's more, Odorizzi has achieved those superior numbers mostly as a fly-ball pitcher in the AL East. Yes, Odo is coming off a career-worst 4.49 ERA in 2018, but that's nearly identical to Gibson's career mark.
It troubles me that even in his big breakout season, Gibby's flaws were still evident as his control wavered and he allowed a fairly steady stream of baserunners, evidenced by an unspectacular 1.30 WHIP (we can't count on him replicating his career-high 75.5% strand rate).
3. Odorizzi might have turned a corner.
One could make an argument that this is the perfect time to strike a multi-year pact with Odorizzi. He was quietly very effective in down the stretch, erasing his problematic long-ball vulnerability with only three home runs allowed over 10 starts between August and September. During that span he held opponents to a .203/.292/.318 slash line. Taking it back a step further, he surrendered just six homers in 20 starts after June 1st.
Meanwhile, Odorizzi finished with the highest strikeout rate (8.9 K/9) since his rookie year. It sure seemed like the righty figured a few things out around the middle of the summer, and if he can build upon that with new pitching coach Wes Johnson, you've got something.
4. Contract security could make Odorizzi more open-minded about his usage.
Odorizzi is a model candidate for the "opener" strategy, as he allowed the highest OPS his third time facing opposing lineups (1.135) of any qualified pitcher in the game this year. This was noted by Parker Hageman in his feature for the Offseason Handbook, but so too was this reality: it's tough to screw around with the usage of a starting pitcher who's staring down free agency and unsure of his future.
“Hold on a sec, I’m a starter. I’m going to get paid as a starter,” Twins director of personnel Mike Radcliff empathized in the story, speaking not of Odorizzi specifically but the general conundrum of asking an established veteran to fill an experimental role.
With some income certainty for the coming years, the right-hander (or more accurately his agent) may be less inclined to protest such an arrangement, which could benefit the team greatly.
5. Odorizzi will be cheaper.
While you can easily find some positives in his numbers and trends (I did so above), the fact remains: Odorizzi is coming off a subpar season, just after the team that watched him blossom into a quality mid-rotation starter traded him for peanuts rather than pay him $6 million. I've gotta think he'd be amenable to a three-year contract on reasonable terms.
I get that Gibson is the hot commodity right now. But taking a step back, Odorizzi has consistently shown a much higher floor, and given his reliable domination of opponents in the first meeting of a game (.645 OPS allowed and 24% K-rate, career) he's a good bet to at least excel as a reliever if it comes to that.
Oh, and here's the other thing: if Gibson does have a beastly season next year, the Twins can extend a qualifying offer. That seems like a less viable scenario with Odorizzi.
So, there you go. Where do you weigh in? Have I convinced you on the merits of an Odorizzi extension? Or do you lean more toward Gibson? Maybe you'd try and extend both? Neither? Let's hear it.