Baseball

Phillies Have “Checked In” On Jake Odorizzi

The Phillies are among the clubs to have checked in recently on free-agent righty Jake Odorizzi’s asking price, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. He adds that the Angels have maintained some level of interest in the right-hander throughout free agency as well. There’s still no indication that Odorizzi is in serious talks with any individual team at this point.

It’s been a slow winter for Odorizzi, who was reported several weeks ago to be seeking a three-year pact worth around $15MM per year. A contract in that range would put the Phillies well north of the $210MM luxury tax threshold, as they’re currently about $8.5MM shy of that mark.

Given that proximity, it’s tough to see any match between the two sides without the Phillies exceeding the tax. That said, the penalty for surpassing the tax in 2021 wouldn’t be all that substantial for the Phillies — a 20 percent tax on their first $20MM worth of overages — and they’d quite likely dip back below the tax line in 2022 (assuming the system remains in place after another wave of collective bargaining talks). The Phillies will see Andrew McCutchen, Odubel Herrera and several others come off the books next year; their 2022 tax obligations are currently in the $133MM range.

As for the fit with Odorizzi specifically, there’s little denying that he’d be an upgrade in the middle of the Philadelphia staff. Odorizzi’s 2020 season was more or less wiped out by a series of non-arm injuries — an oblique strain, a line-drive to the chest and a blister on his pitching hand — but his 2019 season was quite strong. He started 30 games and tallied 159 innings with the Twins, pitching to a 3.51 ERA with a career-best 27.1 percent strikeout rate against a strong 8.1 percent walk rate. That showing prompted the Twins to make a $17.8MM qualifying offer, which Odorizzi accepted over some multi-year interest at lower annual rates.

Aside from last year’s series of injuries, Odorizzi has been among the game’s most durable starters. From 2014-19, he averaged better than 30 starts and 165 innings per season, logging a combined 3.88 ERA and 4.20 SIERA with strikeout and walk rates that were a bit better than league average.

The Phillies, meanwhile, will open the year relying on a strong one-two punch of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, with a solid Zach Eflin holding down the third spot on the staff. After that, top prospect Spencer Howard, the talented-but-inconsistent Vince Velasquez, and offseason signees Chase Anderson and Matt Moore will be the leading candidates to round things out. Howard struggled in his MLB debut last year but is still highly regarded. However, he also skipped Triple-A entirely and still has only six Double-A starts to his name, so the organization may feel he needs some more development time.

As for the Halos, they’re about $17MM shy of the luxury threshold, so there’s certainly room to add Odorizzi without crossing that threshold if that’s ownership’s goal. The Angels actually have a fairly deep mix of rotation options at this point, with Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Jose Quintana, Griffin Canning, Alex Cobb and Shohei Ohtani all likely to factor in early.

The Angels have been decimated by injuries in recent years, however, and that group of rotation options has some question marks within its ranks. Odorizzi certainly isn’t the ace for which Angels fans have clamored for the past few seasons, but he’d quickly become one of their top starting options were the two sides to strike a pact.

At this point, there’s no clear favorite for where Odorizzi will land. He has, at times, been connected to the Twins, Blue Jays, Giants and Red Sox (in addition to the two clubs listed here), but it’s a tough winter to be a mid-rotation starter on the market. Only four starting pitchers have agreed to multi-year deals: Trevor Bauer (Dodgers), Taijuan Walker (Mets), Mike Minor (Royals) and Chris Flexen (Mariners). Bauer was in his own class, of course, while Flexen is something of a unique case himself after a breakout showing in the KBO.

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