Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi is “strongly considering” accepting his qualifying offer from the Twins, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (link). If he accepts, Odorizzi would be set to earn $17.8MM in 2020. Final qualifying offer decisions are due by 4 pm CST this afternoon.
If Odorizzi ultimately decides to return to Minnesota under the auspices of the one-year QO, it will stand as one of the early surprises of the offseason. Although the right-hander faces some stiff competition from fellow free-agent starting pitchers on the open market, it seemed at the offseason’s outset that the former Ray could represent the very best of the market’s “third tier” of starters (following, arguably, after the triumvirate of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Wheeler). While our free agent predictions from earlier this month did predict the 29-year-old would remain in Minnesota, his relative youth and recent production were factors in our projection of a three-year, $51MM open-market reward.
Even considering Odorizzi’s current status of contemplation, that hypothetical pact still projects as a relatively reasonable package of compensation for an under-30 starter coming off a 2019 season that resounded as a career-best. After two lackluster campaigns in ’17 and ’18, this past season saw the Illinois native record career bests in both strikeout rate (10.1 K/9) and fielding independent metrics (3.36 FIP through 159 innings) while leading a staff that helped secure an AL Central crown.
And, to be fair, it’s not as if Odorizzi’s success was exactly “out of nowhere”: between his 2015 and 2016 seasons with Tampa, the righty notched a 3.53 ERA across 81 starts. For all intents and purposes, Odorizzi’s 2019 breakouts simply seemed like a case of a formerly well-regarded youngster righting the ship after a few seasons of mid-career adjustment; add in a legitimate year-over-year jump in fastball velocity (from an average of 91.1 mph in 2018 to 92.9 mph this past season, per Statcast), and it appeared as if the hurler actually promised something of a value play to teams unwilling to enter the luxury aisle for free agent starting pitchers this offseason.
Odorizzi’s decision suddenly looms as one of the more interesting ripple effects to watch in advance of the QO deadline this afternoon. His return to the Twins would, for one, go a long way toward clearing up the club’s murky rotation picture–even if Odorizzi remains in the fold, the club would likely still need to add one (or perhaps two) starting options. Meanwhile, free agents like Kyle Gibson, Cole Hamels, and Julio Teheran would seem to gain leverage from having one less arm above them in the open-market pecking order.