Free agent right-hander Jake Odorizzi is healthy and looking for a deal, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The righty reportedly threw off a mound in front of evaluators representing about a third of the clubs in the league. The Twins were one club that were there watching, per Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, though their interest level is unclear.
Odorizzi, 34 next month, is coming off an entirely missed season. He was traded from Atlanta to Texas at the end of the 2022 campaign after triggering a player option. Atlanta agreed to pay down $10MM of the $12.5MM salary on that player option, leaving Texas to pay just $2.5MM. But that money ended up wasted, as Odorizzi dealt with some arm fatigue in Spring Training and ultimately required a season-ending arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder.
His offers will undoubtedly be limited after that lost season and shoulder injury, but it could also present a buy-low opportunity for clubs if any of them are encouraged by his health. Odorizzi has spent many years in the big leagues as a solid mid-rotation guy, having made 241 appearances since his 2012 debut, 237 of those being starts. His 1,253 1/3 innings have seen him allow 3.99 earned runs per nine, striking out 22.2% of batters faced while walking 8.1%.
Various clubs around the league are working with tighter budgets this winter due to uncertainty regarding the broadcast revenue situation, with one of those being the Twins. They opened last year with a payroll of $153MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, but are reportedly trying to get that down to the $125-140MM range for this year’s opener.
They are currently at $124MM, per Roster Resource, but with a clearly diminished rotation. Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle all reached free agency and signed with other clubs. Chris Paddack returned from his Tommy John surgery absence late last year and could make up for those losses somewhat and the Twins acquired Anthony DeSclafani from the Mariners, but the overall group is clearly less inspiring than it was a year ago. Reporting from earlier today suggested that the club is still looking to add to their starting mix.
The Twins clearly know and like Odorizzi, as he pitched for them from 2018 to 2020. If they feel he can get back to where he was during that time, a low-cost flier would make plenty of sense. The Twins were just one club present to watch Odorizzi throw and there are plenty of others who could be a fit.
The Padres have also been slashing payroll and have lost Blake Snell, Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Nick Martínez to free agency. Snell is still out there but the club’s tight budget makes it unlikely they’ll get him back or sign any other big name. The Rays have a payroll that is set to be a franchise record and they could use some more pitching. Like the Twins, they are familiar with Odorizzi from a previous stint, as he was with Tampa from 2013 to 2017. Just about any club could use an extra bit of pitching depth and Spring Training always leads to injuries that will only exacerbate those needs.
The big question will naturally be Odorizzi’s health. Beyond the recent shoulder procedure and long layoff, he’s had other issues. In 2021, he went on the injured list due to a right pronator muscle strain and some right foot soreness, whereas the 2022 season saw him miss time due to lower left leg discomfort. He topped out just over 100 innings in both of those campaigns. Thanks to those injuries and the pandemic, he hasn’t had anything close to a full starter’s workload since 2019. But he was fairly steady prior to that, tossing between 140 and 190 innings in six straight years from 2014 to 2019. His ERA finished between 3.35 and 4.49 in each of those campaigns.