Dave Dombrowski has talked about the Phillies’ need for pitching depth. While many fans thought that he had done enough to fortify the staff, DD is still sniffing around for more.
And by more, I mean the best pitcher left on the free agent market, Jake Odorizzi.
If the Phillies acquired Odorizzi, it would be an absolute coup for this team. His 2020 was wiped out by a few non-arm injuries, and he never really got into a rhythm. However, he was incredibly solid in 2019, going 15-7 with 3.51 ERA, while getting his first All Star nomination. A career best 27.1 percent strikeout rate against a strong 8.1 percent walk rate made it an easy decision for the Twins to extend him a qualifying offer in the offseason. While it didn’t turn out the way either the team nor the player had wanted, I’m sure it is a bet the Twins would make again.
Odorizzi averaged over 30 starts a year and 165 innings a year from 2014-2019, making him one of the more sturdy starters in that time. He has never been a real strikeout artist, but his career average of 8.59 K/9 is a smidge above MLB average. He struggled in only four starts for the Twins in 2020, but Odorizzi would immediately slot in as the Phillies’ fourth starter. A rotation with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, and Odorizzi immediately becomes one of the best in the division.
Having Odorizzi as the fourth starter will only take pressure off of the top-3, especially Eflin. Nola and Wheeler will also be helped, but they have shown they can handle the workload of top of the rotation starters. Eflin, who is expected to continue his strong 2020 into this season, only benefits by Odorizzi’s presence. Eflin’s been nothing more than a fifth starter during his time in Philly. The way to ease him into the role is to sign people with experience who slot in behind him. The team did that when they signed Matt Moore and Chase Anderson. Odorizzi would just add to that experience.
The more interesting detail to take from this would be the Phillies’ comfort crossing the luxury tax threshold. The team currently sits about $8.5 million from the $210 million tax threshold. Certainly, any move for Odorizzi would push the Phillies past that mark. The penalty for surpassing the tax in 2021 is a 20% tax on their first $20MM worth of overages, making it doable. The Phillies have a good amount of money coming off the books next year. That means the Phillies would only be past the threshold for a single season, barring any other moves.
Ownership, including managing partner John Middleton, have been weary of crossing the $210 million mark. It certainly didn’t seem plausible at the beginning of the offseason. However, many also didn’t expect they would have one of the five highest payrolls in the MLB. It’s amazing how DD changed the whole direction of this team in one offseason. The front office clearly sees the opportunity in the National League to make the playoffs. The NL East will be a blood bath, but two teams from the division will likely make the playoffs. The opportunity to strike is now, especially when there is value on the market this late into the offseason.
If the Phillies go out and get Odorizzi, I believe they are a lock to make the playoffs.
More than likely, the playoffs will consist of two teams from both the NL East and West. The Cardinals are the only real competitive team in the NL Central, with the other teams cutting considerable payroll. Pair the rotation depth with a Top-10 offense from last year, and the Phillies have the makings of a playoff team. Not to mention, the bullpen can only improve from the 7.06 ERA they posted in 2020. We all know the amount of games singlehandedly lost by the ‘pen last year. Frankly, it became the norm to see leads wither away.
The offseason grade for this team is already an A. Odorizzi not only raises that grade to an A+, but makes this team a force in the NL.
Playoff baseball for the first time in 10 years sounds pretty good to me.