For some reason, Jake Odorizzi is still a free agent. Attention, St. Louis Cardinals.
After the cannons finally went off and the very boring hot stove heated up at long last back in January, a civil baseball mind would think a solid starting pitcher still in his prime would be a hot commodity and off the market quickly. Apparently not, because we are a week into spring training games and the Breese, Illinois native doesn’t have a job.
According to him, though, it’s a matter of principle and not medical. The arm and body are healthy and ready to go, but he wants to be paid respectably. Like it or not, Odorizzi is willing to be patient and being that we are still technically in a pandemic-or at best recovering from it-who can blame the guy? Why rush to sign with a team when the league is still ironing out the plans for the actual season to be possible?
But I think Bill DeWitt Jr. should pick up a phone right now and call the man’s agent over at Excel Sports Management, and officially rip up Odorizzi’s latest unemployment check. The Cardinals don’t even have a set rotation, much less trustworthy depth.
While we all eat up the Daniel Ponce de Leon story like kettle corn, the team hasn’t found a true role for him in years. Alex Reyes wants to be a starter, and has the stuff to do it. But I’d also like to drive to California right now. I have the car, but betting on it making the full trip at the moment wouldn’t be written in stone. He’s a question mark, just like Carlos Martinez.
Everyone would like to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” Martinez’s 2020 season into oblivion, which was ravaged by a COVID-19 battle and a performance on the field that looked more like batting practice than real pitching. He has the history of efficiency to get a loan on a starting pitching job this year, but Martinez keeps using bad road maps to get back to credible and reliable pitching asset. Age is ticking away there as well.
Do we have to get into the Miles Mikolas situation? It hit 70 degrees for the first time this year and the man’s start had already scratched. It’s like the threads in his jersey felt the pressure of the green grass and brown dirt, thus deactivating his arm immediately. Precaution still houses the word “caution;” it just ditched the extreme part there. That’s what you when a guy has an expensive contract with no guaranteed production in sight.
So you have Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, and Kwang Hyun Kim, who has limited MLB exposure. There’s Johan Oviedo, a man who was a bright spot in a lost year, but still requires innings to reveal a level of reliance. Jake Woodford is a possibility, but not a certainty. Who else? What happens when one of those above listed fellas gets struck with injury?
Wait a second! I have something, and man does it stink! ODOR-izzi. Pardon my sophomore attempt at humor, but some shots just need to be taken. Sign the man. Can he throw a baseball? Yes. Does he have the proven stature of El Gallo, minus the drama? Check. Did he find alternative ways to stabilize American League East rivals for five years while allowing just a 1.2 home runs-per nine innings average? Yeah, he did. It’s true, all of it.
Here’s the thing to remember throughout all of this. Odorizzi isn’t a savior by any means to this rotation. He’s not Chris Carpenter. He’s not Jack. He isn’t going to come in and tweet about “The Dark Knight Rises” and challenge for the ace handle. The man can just flat out pitch. The last time we saw a normal baseball season, the former Minnesota Twin averaged 11 strikeouts every nine frames. The earned run average and fielding independent pitching (basically, take away his defense and see what happens) marks were eerily similar as well.
Yes, 2018 was a season the man would like to forget. The 4.49 ERA was rougher than the 3.8 WHIP. The latter number and stat means he’s putting a lot of runners on base via the hit or walk consistently in his starts. But outside of the abnormal year we just experienced and the previously mentioned 2018 campaign, Odorizzi’s composure in an inning has been solid.
He can strike guys out, limit the long ball, and give a team 30 starts and 165 innings. In a sport where arms fall by the wayside hourly in the spring, Odorizzi is right to wait for the right deal. There have been reports of an offer from St. Louis, but nothing concrete. He’s still out there, and the Cardinals have to be interested.
Right now, here’s the rotation: Flaherty, Martinez, Wainwright, Kim, Mikolas or Reyes? I like that group early, but I do not like it late. The endurance just can’t be trusted, so deepen the attack and sign a free agent who wants a few more million dollars and some insurance. After circling each other for years and constant rumors, seal the deal.
Odorizzi’s repertoire is made for Busch Stadium. Here’s a guy touching 93 miles-per-hour with his four-seam fastball, putting movement on the pitch without sacrificing speed. He throws four different speeds total, mixing in an effective splitter and slider to go with the heater. That translates to ground balls, strikeouts, and warning track power. Bring the AL East working man home and hope he’s better than Brett Cecil. Odorizzi would be a gift to Mike Maddux.
Make it happen, already. Nolan Arenado was a crystal-clear message to the fans that this team is serious, but solidifying the rotation strengthens the grip on the division after the Brewers picked up Jackie Bradley Jr. this week. The Central isn’t a signed, sealed, and delivered thing anymore. Prepare.
**Picture Credit: Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports**