Photo via: Wikimedia Commons

Jake Odorizzi is seeking a bumper contract from his next team, having entered free agency. As of last week, the Boston Red Sox were said to have serious interest in the pitcher. 

The pitching department is being prioritized this season, with starting pitchers a key concern. Odorizzi has emerged as a top target for the team, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. “The Red Sox have serious interest in RHP Jake Odorizzi, per source. Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was part of the Rays front office when Tampa Bay acquired Odorizzi in December 2012, so there’s plenty of familiarity between the two,” Feinsand tweeted earlier this month.

The right-hander would be at the top of the rotation for the Sox this year as Eduardo Rodriguez is returning after dealing with both COVID-19 and myocarditis last term. Chris Sale is also just a year off his Tommy John surgery. 

Odorizzi was an All-Star in 2019 following a career-high 178 strikeouts in 159 innings and 30 starts for the Minnesota Twins. NBC Sports’ John Tomase predicted the Red Sox would sign Odorizzi after the turn of the year and it appears he might be correct.

“The Red Sox have money and they have gaping holes in their rotation, especially with questions about Sale and even left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who battled COVID-related heart issues in 2020,” he wrote. “Odorizzi played for Chaim Bloom in Tampa and is coming off a lost season that also included a batted ball injury, after he got smoked in the chest with a line drive. An All-Star in 2019, he could slot in to the second or third spot in the Red Sox rotation.”

The acquisition will be an expensive one for Boston should it go through, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who reports the player is looking for up to $42 million from whatever deal he signs next. A contract of such a range is hardly too much to offer for some MLB outfits but, as to whether teams will be willing to fork it out for Odorizzi is the real question.

Photo via: Wikimedia Commons

Rosenthal has also reported the 30-year-old is a target for the Toronto Blue jays.

“One club in contact with free-agent right-hander Jake Odorizzi says the pitcher expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range,” the report reads. “Such a deal might not be out of reach: Starting pitchers are faring well on the open market, and the Blue Jays offered fellow righty Kevin Gausman three years in the $40 million range before he accepted the Giants’ one-year $18.6 million qualifying offer.

“The question with Odorizzi is whether other teams would be willing to spend at the level the Jays reached in their pursuit of Gausman. The Jays are perhaps the most aggressive team in the market, but have yet to find players willing to take their money. Of course, the Jays also could emerge as a player for Odorizzi if they fail to sign Sugano or Bauer.”

As pointed out above, Odorizzi had himself quite a personal campaign in 2019. The veteran went 15-7, boasting a 3.51 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Things slowed in 2020, however, with the player making just four starts, going 0-1 on a 6.659 ERA and 12 strikeouts. A run of poor luck started with an intercostal injury – he made three starts upon return, before getting hit in the chest by Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon’s liner. The second incident saw him sidelined for three weeks and he would have a cut open on a finger after starting against the White Sox in September.

Whether or not he will be part of the Sox roster later in the year is left to be seen but, should they sign the first-time free agent, it will signal an improvement. The MLB is planning on having a full season in 2021, which should mean plenty of games should he remain healthy. It will also make for plenty of betting and fans would likely be happy to look into which bookmaker has better opportunities when it comes to Red Sox wagers.

Speaking to the Talkin’ Baseball podcast, Odorizzi dismissed the notion of him being injury prone, noting none of the injuries pointed to a chronic issue. The intercostal injury was due to going from solitary workouts to facing five live hitters in intrasquad games, the others were isolated. 

“Obviously I had some weird luck this year,” he explained during his interview on said podcast. “I see things that people say, like ‘injury-prone.’ That’s just bad reporting if you think I’m injury-prone. I’ve had 28-, 30-plus starts every single year of my career. I’m not injury-prone. I’m COVID-prone of weird things happening. What can you do?

“When I was out there healthy, my numbers analytically matched up with last year, which I think is the main thing to take away. I didn’t lose velocity, the dreaded, ‘You’re going into free agency and your velocity is down.’ That’s a huge red flag.

“Mine’s not. Mine’s the same. I’ve actually gained velocity in the last year and a half, two years. I’m on a different direction than what you hear typically, and I take pride in that.”