The Twins enter the winter earlier than they had hoped with a clear priority on where they need to add to the 2020 team: the pitching staff. They knew they’d enter this offseason with plenty to do in that area, and now’s the time to get started.
Derek Falvey said this week that the Twins would “target impact pitching” and we’ll take him at his word. With that said, there’s only one Gerrit Cole hitting free agency, and the Twins have as many as four starting rotation spots to fill. Will they look to retain any of their starters from 2019 beyond José Berríos?
Let’s make the case for Jake Odorizzi.
There will be time to explore the decision over whether or not to pick up the option for Martín Pérez, time to sort out the complicated question about Michael Pineda, and plenty of time to assess whether a young pitcher like Brusdar Graterol, Devin Smeltzer or Zack Littell has earned a bid for a spot in the 2020 rotation.
The Twins will have three choices with Odorizzi, who has already said he’d welcome a return to the Twins. “I do, it’s just a matter of their desire and the reality of it [is that] the ugly term, “dollar figures” is what it’s all about,” Odorizzi told me.
“I put in a lot of time to get to this point in my career … Sometimes you really enjoy a place and it doesn’t work out for whatever reason. But these last two years have probably been the most fun years I’ve had in the big leagues. It’s a wait-and-see type of process, as any free agency is. But I’m sure there’s going to be open dialogue moving forward, so I’ve got to sit back and weigh some options,” he said.
The way I see it the Twins have three options:
Then it would be up to Odorizzi to accept that one-year pact or pass and hit the open market with the added cost of draft pick compensation to whichever club signs him.
Personally, I would try to bring him back.
In his two years with the Twins, the steady righty made 62 starts. He’ll turn 30 this winter. He pitched 164 innings and 159 innings this year, including taking off the final week of the season once the Twins had things wrapped up in the AL Central. He made a big jump in strikeout rate, to 27.1%, and he cut down the number of walks (8.1% on the year).
If you polled people around the country to name the Twins’ strikeout leader I’m guessing most of them would say Berríos. That title belongs to Odorizzi in 2019, and he rates 10th in the American League in strikeout rate among starters with at least 150 innings (right behind Lance Lynn and Trevor Bauer). Actually, Odorizzi has punched out hitters more often than Berríos in 2018-19 combined, despite his first season in Minnesota being described as a struggle.
Now, obviously there’s more to life on the mound than striking out hitters. You could argue that Odorizzi was the team’s most effective starting pitcher this season, and if we’re talking about retaining players from the 2019 club, he would seem like the type of pitcher who takes priority.
Here’s a look at a few offers signed by starting pitchers last winter:
Patrick Corbin, who was younger and had a more dominant year on his résumé, got 6 years, $140 million in Washington.
Nathan Eovaldi got 4 years, $68 million from Boston after his October heroics.
J.A. Happ, who is 6 years older, got 2 years, $34 million with the Yankees.
Charlie Morton, also in his mid-30’s, got 2 years and $30 million.
Lance Lynn, 32, got his $30 million over 3 years.
Hyun-Jin Ryu simply accepted the qualifying offer to stay with the Dodgers for another year and earn a $17.9 million salary.
I don’t know yet what Odo’s looking for this winter. The first domino will be whether the Twins extend the one-year qualifying offer. If that happens – and I think it should – it’ll be an interesting decision point. Take the money over one year? Or turn it down and hope the market for your services does not get suppressed in the way it did for Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel?
Twins CBO Derek Falvey wouldn’t share specifics this week because free agency hasn’t even begun yet. But the planning stages all well underway, and there’s only one name written in pen for the 2020 starting rotation.
“We’re prepared for going into this offseason to attack some areas of need on the team. … We like those guys who were here with us,” Falvey said. “We’ll continue to have conversations with those guys. There’s some to-be-determined elements of free agent planning that go into that because free agency hasn’t yet started. We’ll get closer to that and have a much better idea where that goes but we’re going to have attack that as an area to help this team going forward.”