Jake Odorizzi Rumors

Rays Notes: Price, Odorizzi

The Rays face a dilemma with regard to David Price, writes Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs. They could keep him this season, a season in which they project to be competitive, and try to trade him again next offseason. The problem is that his surplus value is likely to decline by then — not only because he'll be a year closer to free agency, but because he doesn't project to improve and because he'll almost certainly be paid more in 2015 than he will be in 2014. Here are more notes out of Tampa.

  • The Rays are currently focused on "tinkering" with their roster and building depth, GM Andrew Friedman tells the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin (via Twitter).
  • Jake Odorizzi was impressed with the Rays after joining their organization via the James Shields / Wil Myers trade, he tells Sam Dykstra in a long interview at MILB.com. "You hear things about how good this organization is, and it really lived up to that. Everyone here is great on communication, and the program they put you on is one-of-a-kind," Odorizzi says. "You can see why they're so successful and continue to be that every year." Odorizzi also says he became closer to Myers and fellow Royal-turned-Ray Mike Montgomery as a result of the trade.

 


Quick Hits: Brignac, Mariners, Odorizzi

We will start the weekend off with a few notes from around baseball:

  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the Pirates and Twins may have interest in infielder Reid Brignac. The Rockies recently designated Brignac for assignment to clear room for DJ LeMahieu. The 27-year-old Brignac had slashed .250/.294/.375 over 53 plate appearances in his first season in Colorado. He owns a career line of .228/.270/.321 in 719 plate appearances for the Rays and Rockies.
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required) suggests some key adjustments for the Mariners, who he believes can compete this season. Bowden argues that the Mariners could improve their disappointing offense by trading from their pitching depth, as well as by promoting top prospects Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino.
  • Highly-rated prospect Jake Odorizzi could throw his first pitch for the Rays as soon as Monday, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, as he appears first in line to fill in for injured starter David Price. If he is called up, Odorizzi would become the first of the four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade to see action for the big club. Baseball America rated Odorizzi as the Rays' fifth-best prospect going into the season, and he has been solid at Triple-A so far, posting a 3.83 ERA over 44 2/3 innings to go with 9.5 K/9 and 3 BB/9.

Max Fogle contributed to this post.


Prospect Rumor Roundup: Odorizzi, Butler, Yelich

You can't begin a month much better than Jake Odorizzi did during his start on May 5th against the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The young pitching prospect combined with three relievers to no-hit Boston's minor league affiliate. Odorizzi worked seven innings while walking four batters and striking out three. He was removed from the game early due to workload limitations. Relievers Frank De Los Santos, Kirby Yates and Jeff Beliveau preserved the no-no.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times spoke with Odorizzi, who said he had all his weapons working during the game. "Everything was going my way. The defense was good behind me. It seemed everything was hit right at someone. Just kind of one of those days where everything goes your way." He has now held opponents scoreless in each of his last two starts (12 innings).

Although it's easy to get excited about Odorizzi's quick start to the season, the hype comes with caveats. The young hurler has always been an extreme flyball pitcher and his groundball rate is well below average on the year at slightly more than 22%. 

Odorizzi's pitching repertoire includes solid stuff but he lacks "plus stuff." He has average control and above-average command of his offerings: an 87-92 mph fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. In pre-season top prospects lists, Keith Law of ESPN (68th), Baseball America (92nd), and MLB.com (42nd) all ranked Odorizzi amongst the top 100 in the game. Baseball America's scouting report referred to the hurler's ceiling as that of a No. 3 or 4 starter.

Originally selected 32nd overall by the Milwaukee Brewers during that 2008 amateur draft, the Illinois native has been traded twice in his young career. He was sent to the Kansas City Royals in December 2010 during the Zack Greinke deal. Almost exactly two years later, Odorizzi was flipped to Tampa Bay in the James Shields/Wade Davis swap. If Tampa Bay — specifically its pitching staff with the fifth worst ERA in baseball — continues to struggle into the second half of 2013, the pitching prospect could become a big-league option later in the year.

Prospect Tidbits: Selected 46th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, Colorado Rockies pitching prospect Eddie Butler is off to a hot start to his career. Beginning the 2013 season in A ball, he's allowed just 18 hits in 41 innings of work. If the Radford University alum continues to pitch like this he could make quick work of the minor leagues…..The Miami Marlins brought in a lot of minor league talent during last November's shocking trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite that, prospects originally drafted by the club continue to see their values soar. Outfielder Christian Yelich went 5-for-6 with two triples and a home run on May 8th. As MiLB.com's Ashley Marshall tells us, the performance also caught the attention of his manager. "It was one of the most impressive displays of a young hitter I have ever seen," Andy Barkett said. It raised Yelich's average to .343 on the year…..Baltimore's Dylan Bundy reached the big leagues in his first full pro season in 2012 but his development in '13 was halted by an injury. The bad news gives his Oklahoma high school opponent and friend Archie Bradley a chance to close the gap between the two a little bit. After five dominating starts in the potent California League (43 strikeouts, 1.26 ERA in 28 2/3 innings), the Arizona Diamondbacks promoted the pitching prospect to Double-A and he's struck out 11 batters with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings over two starts.



Why I Chose My Agency: Jake Odorizzi

Though he's made only two Major League starts, 23-year-old Rays righty Jake Odorizzi is no stranger to MLBTR's pages.  Currently considered a top 100 prospect in the game, Odorizzi was drafted 32nd overall out of high school in 2008, traded to the Royals in the December 2010 Zack Greinke deal, and traded again this offseason to the Rays in the James Shields deal.  Recently I spoke with Jake about his agent, Jason Wood of Arland Sports.

On when he first came into contact with Jason:

I came in contact with him sometime in 2007.  I knew there was a possibility that I could be drafted early.  He was really the first guy we talked to, I met him through one of my friends I played summer ball with, he represented his older brother.  We hit it off on a friendship level more than a professional level, that's kind of our thing.  We became friends and it just kind of worked out for the best, really.  He's originally from an area where I'm from, next to St. Louis.

On the process leading up to the draft in '08:

It was really easy for me, I didn't really have any focus on it.  He was the guy that handled everything, if anybody had questions, like scouts or any teams.  I never had to handle any of that stuff, all I had to do was focus on playing ball and that made things a lot easier for me, having him to take care of all that [rather] than having myself or my parents or anybody take care of it and me having to deal with it.  So he helped me out tremendously, doing that.  

On Jake's involvement in the negotiations after the Brewers drafted him:

He got an update from them, I got the update too.  We went at it together.  When he would hear something, I would be the very next person to hear it as soon as he could get a hold of me.  I was involved in negotiations as well, and I was up-to-date with everything as it was going on.

On Jason's role as an agent after Jake signed:

Lining up endorsement deals, he negotiated all of that for me and takes care of my finances, does tax returns, all that kind of stuff for me.  He handles a lot of things that make my life easier.  He's very hands on, always keeps up-to-date with what's going on, informs you of anything.  If you have any problems or issues or need something, one phone call and it's taken care of.  He's very on top of his game.

On whether a small agency offers any advantages over the big ones:

I think it's more person-to-person, and I don't have to go through anybody else.  It's really easy to just pick up the phone and you just have to call one person and it's done right then and there.  I think it's more personable, really, talking to the same guy about everything.  You don't feel like a dollar amount when you're in a smaller firm.  [At a big agency] I'm sure some of them get lost in translation a little bit.


Transaction Retrospection: The First Greinke Trade

Zack Greinke made quite a few headlines this offseason by becoming the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in Major League history (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The former No. 6 overall selection in the draft signed a six-year, $147MM with the Dodgers.

Greinke has long been a high-profile arm, thanks largely to his 2009 American League Cy Young Award. His 9.3 wins above replacement (Fangraphs version) that season were the most by any pitcher since Randy Johnson's 2004 season.

So it's no wonder that Greinke had a long list of suitors when it became evident that the Royals were going to trade him. Nor is it surprising that Greinke commanded a young shortstop, a young center fielder and a pair of right-handers that had both been first-round picks.

On December 19, 2010, the Royals traded Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar (24 years old at the time), center fielder Lorenzo Cain (24), right-hander Jake Odorizzi (20) and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress (23). Each player in the deal had recently ranked in Milwaukee's Top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America. Let's take a look at each on an individual basis… Greinke

The Major League Side

  • Zack Greinke: Greinke joined Shaun Marcum as one of two offseason acquisitions for the Brewers that offseason, as the team clearly had an "all-in" mentality entering the final season of Prince Fielder's contract. He broke a rib that offseason playing basketball, limiting him to 171 2/3 innings, but he pitched to a 3.83 ERA with an NL-best 10.5 K/9 when healthy. The Brewers ultimately finished with a 96-66 record, netting them an NL Central Division title. Greinke got his only taste of postseason baseball that year but allowed an unsightly 12 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. The Brewers lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals, who would go on to win the World Series. Greinke hurled 123 more innings for the Brew Crew in 2012, pitching to a 3.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 before being traded to the Angels. GM Doug Melvin landed Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena in that deal, but that's a whole different post.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: Betancourt hit a paltry .252/.271/.381 with the Brewers but still totaled 584 plate appearances in spite of that sub-par production. His defense was also well below-average, and the result was a mere 0.4 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. Betancourt did manage to swat 13 homers that season — the second-highest mark of his career — but his lack of plate discipline and poor glove mitigated most of that value. He would go on to re-sign with the Royals as a free agent the following offseason and is now in the Phillies organization as a non-roster invitee.
  • Alcides Escobar: Milwaukee's No. 3 prospect at the time of the trade (per BA) Escobar has blossomed into the Royals' everyday shortstop, posting fWAR marks of 2.2 and 2.6 in his first two seasons with Kansas City. He doesn't walk often (4.2 percent), but he's posted a respectable .274/.311/.368 triple slash line with Kansas City. That includes significant improvement from 2011-12, as his OPS+ jumped from 74 to 98 between the two years. He's developed into an elite base-stealer, collecting 61 swipes in 75 tries (81.3 percent). In 2012, he went 35-for-40 (87.5 percent). The Fielding Bible evaluates Escobar's defense at +12 runs during his time with Kansas City, while Ultimate Zone Rating feels he's been closer to average. Still just 26 years old, Escobar has room for growth.
  • Lorenzo Cain: Cain's arrival as Kansas City's everyday center fielder was delayed by the acquisition of Melky Cabrera. Groin and thigh strains have cost Cain 98 games between his two seasons with the Royals, but he looks poised to take the reins as the team's everyday center fielder in 2013. It's a small sample, but Cain has a .266/.315/.410 batting line in 267 plate appearances with the Royals. His seven homers and ten steals translate to a 162-game average of 17 homers and 25 steals — a well-above average combination of power and speed for a center fielder. In 726 1/3 career innings in center, UZR/150 rates him at 14.4 runs above average, and The Fielding Bible agrees at +15 runs. He's excelled in the Minors for the Royals and is in the midst of an impressive Spring Training showing, but he'll already be 27 on April 13. Kansas City needs to let Cain play in order to determine if they have a long-term piece this season.

The Prospect Side

  • Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi made his big league debut for Kansas City in 2012, but totaled only 7 1/3 innings. Those will likely be the only innings he ever throws for the Royals, as GM Dayton Moore included the now-22-year-old in the James Shields trade. Odorizzi is BA's No. 92 prospect in all of baseball, and he ranks 45th on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's version of the same list. BA ranks him fifth among Rays prospects, praising his four average pitches (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) but noting that he lacks a true out pitch. Both BA and Mayo agree that Odorizzi has a chance to become a reliable No. 3 starter, but his ceiling is limited by average offerings across the board.
  • Jeremy Jeffress: Jeffress' star has fallen considerably since he ranked as BA's No. 100 prospect prior to the 2009 season. Now 25 years of age, the Royals traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations this past November. Jeffress pitched 82 innings for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate and maintained his strong strikeout rate (9.3 K/9) but walked too many (4.7 BB/9) and allowed nearly a hit per inning as well. He received a pair of call-ups to the big league club but walked 24 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He has the potential to be a power arm late in games, but he'll now look to fulfill that upside elsewhere.

In the end, the Brewers got an ace-caliber pitcher and an NLCS berth in exchange for the four prospects they dealt. Greinke managed to net them a trio of prospects including a new, promising shortstop to replace Escobar. Kansas City turned Greinke into an everyday shortstop, a promising center fielder and a pitching prospect that helped them acquire a new ace-caliber pitcher (Shields). However, the Royals are better positioned to compete with this top-of-the-rotation arm than they were the last time they had one.

Both teams fell a bit short of their best case scenarios (Milwaukee didn't win a World Series, and Kansas City cut ties with Jeffress for next to nothing), but this is a trade that definitely reaped benefits for each side.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Royals To Acquire James Shields, Wade Davis

James Shields - Rays (PW)

The Royals have bolstered their starting rotation for 2013 thanks to the addition of two quality pitchers. Kansas City has agreed to acquire right-hander James Shields, right-hander Wade Davis and a player to be named or cash from Tampa Bay in exchange for outfielder Wil Myersright-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard, according to a team release.

Kansas City's continued commitment to acquiring veteran pitching talent as seen with Shields and Davis has the Royals with their eyes on competing as soon as 2013. Shields, soon to turn 31, brings a career 87-73 record and 3.89 ERA to the Midwest after finishing third in the AL Cy Young vote for the 2011 season. Beyond his stats, Shields brings leadership to the Royals clubhouse after mentoring young pitchers in Tampa Bay. Davis, 27 and fresh off his first season in the bullpen, enjoyed success with the Rays in 2012. With an ERA of 2.43 and his strikeout total of 87, Davis' combination for a reliever could only be matched by Angels right-hander Ernesto Frieri. As a starter, Davis has posted a 4.22 ERA in 64 starts. 

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the organization will have Shields under team control through the 2014 season ('14 as a team option) and Davis potentially remaining blue and white through 2017 (with '16 and '17 as team options) (via Twitter). The duo will join a starting rotation already home to Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin SantanaBruce Chen and Luke Hochevar.

For the Rays, blessed with more than enough pitching to continue to call their rotation an asset, the addition of Myers provides Tampa Bay with another building block to complement their star player in Evan Longoria. Myers, who turns 22 on Monday, enters the 2013 season as the reigning 2012 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .304/.378/.554 in 99 games this season at Triple-A Omaha.

Beyond Myers, the Rays also acquired three prospects from the Royals who all check in at 23 years old or younger. Odorizzi, arguably the most talented of the bunch, took home his team's Pitcher of the Year award this past season while playing with Myers. The right-hander pitched to a 2.93 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 over the course of 107.1 innings. He made his Major League debut in September where he had the opportunity to make two starts for the Royals.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first broke the details of the trade (via Twitter). Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Quick Hits: Chipper, Nix, Trout, Rockies

Here's a potpourri of news items as we head into the weekend…


Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke

The Brewers entered this offseason with the goal of upgrading their rotation. Today, they acquired Zack Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt, and $2MM from the Royals for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi. The Royals have confirmed the move in a press release. After already acquiring Shaun Marcum in exchange for Brett Lawrie last month, it's safe to say Milwaukee has accomplished its goal.

Greinke, 27, had been one of the winter's most discussed trade candidates, with rumors picking up steam after the right-hander requested a trade earlier this weekend. Although many clubs reportedly inquired on and pursued the Royals ace, a trade was no sure thing, due to Greinke's no-trade clause and the Royals' high asking price. However, neither issue ultimately proved to be an obstacle for the Brewers, who had made repeated attempts to acquire the righty despite being on his no-trade list, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links).

During his time in Kansas City, Greinke posted a 3.82 ERA in 1108 innings, including a 3.25 ERA and 8.4 K/9 over the last three years. Prior to his Cy Young campaign in 2009, Greinke signed a four-year extension, meaning he'll remain under Milwaukee's control for two more seasons, at a cost of $13.5MM per year.

Escobar, who turned 24 earlier this week, was viewed by Baseball America as the Brewers' top prospect heading into the 2010 season, his first full year in the bigs. Although he struggled at the plate, hitting .235/.288/.326 in 552 plate appearances, Escobar provided above-average defense at shortstop, according to UZR. Baseball America's scouting report prior to the season dubbed Escobar a "defensive whiz" and a "special defender," while also citing a hope that he'd develop into a solid leadoff option. The 24-year-old's minor league numbers (.293/.333/.377, 176 SB) indicate that his offensive game should continue to improve at the major league level.

Cain, 24, was considered one of the Brewers' top 10 prospects even before a hugely successful 2010 campaign. After hitting .317/.402/.432 across two minor league levels, Cain received his first shot at the bigs, and posted a .306/.348/.415 slash line in 148 plate appearances in Milwaukee. Like Escobar, Cain's primary strengths are his speed and athleticism. Baseball America suggested before the 2010 season that he "could be a more prolific and successful basestealer," and Cain responded by stealing 33 bases in 37 attempts between the minors and majors. According to Baseball America, the former 17th-round pick shows "flashes of power but is mostly a gap hitter."

Both pitching prospects heading to Kansas City are former first round picks; the Brewers selected Jeffress with the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft, while Odorizzi was taken 32nd overall in 2008. Jeffress' path to the bigs has been sidetracked by repeated suspensions for substance abuse. His most recent violation resulted in a 100-game ban that saw him miss significant chunks of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Jeffress' fastball has touched 100 mph and Baseball America raved that he had "as much sheer talent" as any player in the Brewers' system heading into this season, but his off-field issues and control problems (5.5 BB/9 in his minor league career) had slowed his development.

Odorizzi, meanwhile, was rated by some teams as the best high school pitcher in the 2008 draft, according to Baseball America. Just 20 years old, Odorizzi is the only player in the deal who has yet to see major league action, but he turned in an impressive year at Class A Wisconsin, recording a 3.43 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 120 2/3 innings. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick notes in a tweet that the two right-handers were ranked first (Odorizzi) and third (Jeffress) in Milwaukee's system in Baseball America's upcoming Prospect Handbook.

The Brewers had long indicated a desire to shore up a starting rotation whose 4.65 ERA ranked near the bottom of the National League in 2010. Moving a handful of young players in two trades, while hanging on to Prince Fielder, suggests that the club feels they can immediately contend in the NL Central.

Credit Jim Breen of Bernie's Crew with the scoop last night, with an assist to Andrew Wagner of OnMilwaukee.com. ESPN's Buster Olney confirmed the story this morning, while Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus cleared up some conflicting reports and confirmed that Jeffress would indeed be included in the deal (via Twitter).

MLBTR's Luke Adams and Steve Adams contributed to this post.