The Houston Astros have seven starters at disposal heading into the 2022 season. It is not a bad thing at this point into the offseason, and with Lance McCullers Jr. and Justin Verlander coming off injury, the rotation could use the experienced depth.
The possibility of rolling with a six-man rotation to open the season could behoove manager Dusty Baker, as his No.1 and No.2 starters would benefit from an extra day off with that sixth starter in the mix.
This likely leaves out Cristian Javier, who was pushed to the bullpen for the 2021 season as well. Walks were an issue for Javier this past year, averaging 4.7 walks per nine innings. This was 1.7 walks higher than his rookie season of 2020, granted he pitched in 24 less games.
A six-man rotation has Jake Odorizzi on the backend, which is a turnaround for a pitcher who was an All-Star in his last full season. In 2020, Odorizzi only pitched in four games due to injury, while his late start in 2021 affected his campaign, too.
With seven starters available, the Astros could look to trade Jake Odorizzi.
In a recent piece, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic identified Odorizzi as a player that could start the season on another team, once the lockout ends. Kaplan pointed out how Odorizzi’s incentive-laden contract would not be good looking to other ball clubs, leading to less of a return.
Odorizzi is guaranteed $8 million for the 2022 season, while having a performance bonus worth up to $6.75 million based on innings pitched and a player option for 2023. While injury held back the right-hander in the past, his most recent resume doesn’t look too appealing at the moment.
After showing some displeasure with Baker for pulling him early in September, Odorizzi was left off the American League Division Roster, even with a resurgent month behind him. The right-hander flashed reliability in the World Series with 2.1 clean innings and five strikeouts; likely his most efficient outing of the year.
While the Astros struggles with depth in 2021, they have healthy arms in the minor leagues for this next season. Tyler Ivey will be back in the mix, while arms like Jonathan Bermudez, Shawn Dubin and Forrest Whitley could eye their major-league debuts in spot starts.
Contending teams could use Odorizzi to fill out their rotation in the middle or backend, or rebuilding teams could eat his contract and acquire a soon-to-be-ready prospect in the return.
The Astros would likely avoid trading in-division to teams like the Texas Rangers, the Seattle Mariners nor the Los Angeles Angels, while these clubs aim to build teams to dethrone Houston in the American League West.
For contending teams, the San Francisco Giants could benefit from Odorizzi in their rotation, after losing Kevin Gausman. The ball club showed some weakness in depth at the end of the season, while adding Odorizzi would help them down the stretch.
Not many contenders are likely wanting to invest in a pitcher that is coming off two seasons of unhealthy baseball, but a return to the Minnesota Twins could be an option. After dealing Jose Berrios and J.A. Happ at the deadline, their rotation is a shell of what it once was.
The Kansas City Royals have established young starters within their rotation but lack a veteran right-hander to complement them. Odorizzi took a pit stop via trade in Kansas City’s system, years ago, but could help the franchise now.
Other rebuilding teams that could use tenured starters are the Chicago Cubs, the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, while a likely contender in the Tampa Bay Rays would profit off a former hand of theirs. But for the Rays, the money aspect might draw their eyes elsewhere.
The Astros could free up money by dealing away Odorizzi, but the return wouldn’t be anything franchise changing. But with a normal spring training and healthy start to the season, Odorizzi could start to build a resume to stay in the rotation or build more value for a trade.