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minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios. Odorizzi, who is 27 years old and still under team control for two more seasons at club-friendly salary numbers ($6.3 million this year, then arbitration-eligible next offseason), has been a full-time MLB starter for four seasons. His career stats are solid: 3.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 643 Ks in 705 innings. However, Odorizzi battled a back injury last season and had his worst year as a pro by a fairly- significant margin; he had only 127 Ks in 143 innings and his respectable 4.14 ERA belied the fact that he was actually below replacement level. He gave up 30 bombs in 28 starts, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, which roughly represents what a pitcher's ERA would be if he played on a team with a league-average defense and had league-average results on balls put in play) was a ghastly 5.43 and his WAR (Wins Above Replacement from baseball-reference.com) was -0.1.
The Twins bought low on Odorizzi, and they are banking on him returning to his level of performance prior to last season. If he’s fully-recovered from his back injury, that’s a fairly safe bet. Odorizzi is never going to be an ace, but if he pitches like he did from 2013-16, he’ll slot nicely into the No. 3 spot in the Twins’ rotation behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. Even if he struggles like he did last year, he still gives the Twins a semi-reliable option with more durability than guys like Phil Hughes, Trevor May and Hector Santiago.
In their second move, the Twins signed veteran right-handed starter Anibel Sanchez. At this point in his career, Sanchez is a low-risk rotation candidate with experience, and it was smart of the Twins to give him a shot. Sanchez was signed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal contingent on him making the major league roster out of spring training. For a 14-year veteran that led the American League in ERA as recently as 2013, that’s a gamble worth taking. Even in the worst-case scenario, Sanchez can be an innings-eating starter or long-reliever that can replace what Bartolo Colon gave the Twins in the second half of last season.
The nice thing is that acquiring Odorizzi and Sanchez cost the Twins almost nothing. They kept their payroll powder dry, and there are still some good free agent starting pitchers that are unsigned as spring training begins. Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn would all be huge upgrades to a Twins team that is still one significant piece away from looking like it has a playoff-caliber rotation.
With Ervin Santana out for roughly the first month of the season, the Twins are going to need someone to step up. Berrios, Odorizzi, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson will likely be the team’s top four starters at the start of the regular season (barring injury or another free agent signing), and the Twins are in desperate need of a reliable fifth starter. Sanchez could be that guy, but for a team that otherwise has legitimate postseason aspirations, the Twins owe it to their fans to sign one of the remaining top free agents. Joe Mauer’s deal comes off the books after next year, and Target Field continues to generate loads of revenue for this team. Acquiring Odorizzi and Sanchez were cute moves that will marginally help the Twins this year, but I’m done mincing words about this. It’s time for the Twins to pony up and sign someone that will help this team get back to the playoffs.
Twins add depth to starting rotation
With two relatively risk-free roster moves last week, the Minnesota Twins bolstered their starting pitching depth while potentially keeping the door open for the pursuit of another significant free agent pitcher as we approach the start of the regular season.
In their first move, the Twins acquired right-handed starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade for
By Andy Thayer