Position: Right-handed Starting Pitcher
2015 Stats: 169.1 IP, 3.35 ERA, 21.4 K%, 6.5 BB%, 2.6 WARP, 3.75 DRA
How He Fits: Though a less pronounced necessity now after the Cubs signed John Lackey to be the no. 3 starter, Jake Odorizzi is exactly the kind of profile the Cubs would like to add to their already young and promising roster. Odorizzi will be just 26 years old when the 2016 season takes off and won’t be a free agent until after the 2020 season, coinciding with possible walk years for Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
The young righty’s repertoire consists of a fastball in the low 90s, a mid- to high-80s cutter, a curve, a slider, and this thing:
Odorizzi was known as a prospect with a good fastball, a slew of breaking balls, and an inconsistent, average-at-best changeup when making the transition to the bigs. When he joined the Rays organization in the well-known James Shields for Wil Myers trade, Odorizzi’s changeup/splitter went from inconsistent to a powerful weapon with help from another Rays starter Alex Cobb.
Here’s Odorizzi’s month-by-month whiff rate in 2015 for each of his pitches:
Odorizzi is a simple pitcher. He hits his spots with his fastball, uses his breaking balls to set up his go-to splitter. The biggest issue the young pitcher has struggled with in his brief career has been using up his 100 pitches too quickly, knocking him out of the game during the middle innings. If his strikeout-to-walk ratio is to be believed, he has improved on this every single season, topping out at just over three strikeouts per walk in 2015.
Why It Won’t Work: Let’s talk about what a player of Odorizzi’s profile would cost in a trade. Odorizzi fits into a rotation as a no. 3 or high-level no. 4 in a star-filled roster. He is under control for five more seasons, and won’t even be eligible for arbitration until 2017. Odorizzi is cheap—earning just over $500,000 in 2015—reliable, projectable, and not even 26. When it comes to the price in prospects, this player is expensive.
Once again, the acquisition of Lackey makes the Cubs’ need for Odorizzi less pronounced. Coming into the offseason, the Cubs knew they needed a third reliable starter for another postseason appearance (with all due respect to Kyle Hendricks and his much appreciated outing in game two of the NLDS). But the reality is, this group also knows that both Lackey and Arrieta have just two years remaining before they’re free to leave, meaning acquiring a young, cost-controlled starter with upside puts less pressure on them to fill holes in the rotation by having to spend on top-tier free-agent arms.
The conversation for Odorizzi would have to begin with a young player with some MLB experience—think names like Jorge Soler or Javier Baez, with a little more added in to sweeten the pot. After all, it doesn’t complete sense for the Rays to part with someone so cheap and under team control for so many years, those are exactly the types of players they tend to cling to. The Cubs would have to make it very worth Tampa Bay’s time if they were to somehow pry Odorizzi away. Both teams would like be hesitant to make a deal like this, but it certainly makes sense for the Cubs to be targeting players in this profile—young, talented, cost-controlled, and under control for numerous years—as they look to extend their window of contention from couple years to the foreseeable future.
Lead photo courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports