Blue Jays: Pros and Cons of missing out on free agent Jake Odorizzi
Stability in the rotation
The Blue Jays rotation behind ace Hyun Jin-Ryu is a bit fuzzy at the moment with Nate Pearson dealing with a groin strain (although he most likely would be on an innings limit this year) and the Blue Jays hosting multiple back end starters like Tanner Roark, Steven Matz, Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay, etc. The Blue Jays also have Robbie Ray behind Ryu, but adding Jake Odorizzi would have been the middle of the rotation arm that the organization could’ve really used to try and reach the postseason this year.
If the Blue Jays find themselves struggling to get their starting pitchers deep into games and the younger internal options are getting hit around in the MLB, the organization will be kicking themselves for not signing a veteran like Odorizzi. Stability and veteran talent like Odorizzi can be beneficial to a younger team like the Blue Jays and if the organization can’t make a deadline deal and ends up missing the playoffs, they will only have themselves to blame.
A two-year deal fills a need in the rotation
Jake Odorizzi ultimately wanted a multi-year contract and he was willing to wait until spring training to get the deal done.
Over his career, Odorizzi has never signed a multi-year contract given the few years he was under team control, the arbitration years, and the qualifying offer last season, so I can’t blame him for waiting into spring training to get what he wanted. While last season wasn’t the boosting type of year a player looks before they enter free agency, history is on Odorizzi’s side as he can provide teams with consistent starts and the ability to pitch 160 innings a season with an ERA around 4.00.
The Blue Jays have a few starting pitcher prospects who are a year or two away from the MLB and a two-year deal with Odorizzi is the type of contract that allows the prospects to gain experience in the MLB but still keeps the team competitive. The organization has Robbie Ray and Tanner Roark for only one more year, so having another pitcher with MLB experience like Odorizzi could be the bridge deal that benefits the organization if the price is right. It also helps considering Nate Pearson will most likely be on an innings limit this season (and possibly next) and is currently dealing with a groin strain, so another established pitcher like Odorizzi on the rotation could’ve been a benefit.
Value on the open market
With COVID-19 shortening the 2020 season, many teams were hit financially because of the limitations in terms of revenue from fans not being able to attend games. This impacted the free-agent market, as middle-of-the-rotation arms like Odorizzi or Taijuan Walker found themselves at a disadvantage in trying to secure a long-term deal.
With that being said, Odorizzi projects to be a 3-4 starter at the same level as Tanner Roark and Robbie Ray. With Roark signing a deal at $12 million annually and Ray at $8 million, there was the possibility that the Blue Jays might have been able to get a deal on signing the nine-year veteran. For example, Taijuan Walker signed a 2 year $20 million dollar deal with a $6 million player option for the third year this off-season, which would have been an alright deal for someone like Odorizzi.
It will be interesting to see what the terms/financials are for Odorizzi signing with the Houston Astros and if they met what the right-hander was looking for earlier this off-season (the three years at $36+ million). If he signs with the Astros on a contract similar to Walker, I would consider that a steal for a pitcher with a career ERA under 4.00 and a history of pitching 28+ games a year.
Nobody will really know if the Blue Jays would have benefitted or regretted signing Odorizzi until the 2021 season plays out. If Odorizzi can pitch as he did back in 2019, then the Blue Jays will definitely regret not taking a better shot at signing the veteran starting pitcher. If the Illinois native finds himself on the injured list and can’t produce as he did prior to 2020, then the Blue Jays will be singing their praises that they let him sign elsewhere.
These are not the only pros and cons associated with the Blue Jays missing out on Odorizzi, but it will be interesting to see if the Jays actually made an offer to the veteran and he still decided to sign with the Houston Astros. Whether it be that the Blue Jays couldn’t spend any more money this season or they just couldn’t come to an agreement with the pitcher, the Blue Jays will now enter the season with the likes of Ryu and co. and can now only improve the rotation through the trade market until next off-season.