Jake Odorizzi Is Fine But Mets Should Do Better

In what feels like Omar Minaya taking the helm in 2014, the Mets are real players in free agency, and right now, it appears they’re going to get in touch with every available free agent. That goes double for free agent starters.

Considering the Mets still have two slots to fill in their rotation, at least until Noah Syndergaard comes back from Tommy John, that’s quite understandable. The question is how the Mets attack it.

One rumor has the Mets talking to Jake Odorizzi. In some ways, that’s a move which makes a lot of sense.

In 2019, Odorizzi worked with current Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, who was then a Minnesota Twins assistant coach. That was Odorizzi’s best year as a pitcher.

In 30 starts, he was 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, and a 10.1 K/9. He had a career best 129 ERA+ and a 3.36 FIP. To date, it was his only All-Star appearance.

The hope with Odorizzi is this is the level of pitcher he can be working with Hefner again. There’s the added benefit of having a pitcher on the team who can help translate what Hefner is trying to accomplish to the rest of the pitching staff.

While all positives, there are some underlying problems with Odorizzi.

While he was an All-Star in 2019, he only averaged 5.1 innings per start. Still, if you’re the Mets or any team you take 5.1 quality innings every time. Of course, this would put increased emphasis on not just improving the bullpen, but also adding more multiple inning relievers.

The bigger issue for Odorizzi is he may not be the pitcher in 2019. In fact, that could have been nothing more than a career year. Another factor is Odorizzi attributes much of that success not to Hefner, but as Dan Laurila of Fangraphs wrote, to an offseason training regiment at the Florida Baseball Ranch.

Last year, in what was a bizarre year for everyone, Odorizzi really struggled. In his four starts, he was 0-1 with a 6.59 ERA. Certainly, back issues, blisters, and getting hit with an Alex Gordon liner didn’t help. To that end, for evaluation purposes, this season should be noted but largely disregarded.

On that note, we should consider what he was prior to 2019. Through six full MLB seasons, he was 47-47 with a 3.95 ERA, 1.240 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, and an 8.4 K/9. Looking towards his 102 ERA+ and 4.21 FIP, he was little more than a league average back of the rotation starter.

There’s value in that, but there are far better options in this suppressed free agent market. Certainly, the Mets would be better off with a Trevor Bauer or Charlie Morton.

If the Mets want to gamble on potential upside, Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are free agents. Tanaka has shown postseason mettle, and when healthy, Paxton has been good with a career 114 ERA+.

All that said, Odorizzi has real value and could help this team. Certainly, there are a number of factors at play like how and where the Mets choose to allocate their budget.

Odorizzi can help, but ultimately, as the Mets enter this new era, you can’t help for a better starter than Odorizzi in this rotation. That said, given the people in charge, if they go and grab Odorizzi, we can probably trust this was the right decision and part of a larger plan.

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