Rangers launched their search for rotation help on Thursday night, announcing the acquisition of the right-hander Jake Odorizzi of the Braves. Atlanta receives the left-hander Kolby Allard in a one-for-one trade that also sees the Braves pay a notable portion of Odorizzi’s salary. Atlanta will cover $10 million of its $12.5 million figure, which was tied up when the veteran starter exercised a player option for next year.
In 2021, Odorizzi signed a two-year, $23.5 million bond with the Astros with a convoluted structure. He received a signing bonus of $6 million and a salary of $6 million in 2021, followed by a salary of $5 million in 2022. This was to be followed by a player option of 6.5 million with a buyout of $3.25 million. However, there were also performance escalators that could increase the value of both option and buyout. In the first two years of the deal, if Odorizzi took part in 20, 25 and 30 games, he would add $2 million in salary and $1 million in buyout at each of those stages. He easily hit all three, appearing in 46 games, maximizing the option value at $12.5 million.
Odorizzi posted a 4.21 ERA with Houston in 2021, then earned a 3.75 mark at the deadline when he was traded to Atlanta for Will Smith. Unfortunately, the uniform change didn’t help him, as he posted a 5.24 rating after the trade. He also had a 6.59 ERA in the shortened 2020 season, meaning he hasn’t seen good results in the last three years. Although he had a 27.1% strikeout rate in 2019, he’s been hovering around 20% since then, a few ticks below the league average.
Atlanta clearly wasn’t too keen on paying him $12.5 million, based on both their tight payroll situation and Odorizzi’s results. He’s probably not one of their top five starters anyway, because they have Max fried, Kyle Wright, charlie mortonand Spencer Strider for the first four places, with Bryce Elder, Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller and Jared Shuster candidates for the fifth. They will only get $2.5 million in pay relief, but the deal paves the way for some of their younger arms to compete for back-office jobs.
The Rangers need rotational improvements after performing poorly in that department in 2022. The Texas starters posted a collective 4.63 ERA this year, placing them 25th in the majors. They got a decent job from Jon Gray and a year of veteran career Martin Perez, although Pérez has now achieved free will and deprived the already weak rotation of its best performer. There is reportedly mutual interest in a reunion, although nothing has been finalized yet and the club are now likely to offer him a qualifying offer of $19.65m.
With Pérez still in the wind, that leaves Texas with Gray and a host of question marks behind him. Dane Dunning was pretty decent, posting a 4.46 ERA this year over 29 starts. However, his season ended with hip surgery and it’s unclear what condition he’ll be in next year. Glenn Otto made 27 starts and posted a 4.64 ERA. The club also gave a few starts to Taylor Hearn, cole ragans and spencer howard, although they all posted an ERA of 4.95 or higher. Given all this uncertainty, it would make sense for them to consider all avenues to upgrade staff, with GM Chris Young essentially saying that at GM meetings in Las Vegas this week, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. This will apparently include giving Odorizzi a chance to produce better results.
In addition to clearing some salary from the books, Atlanta will get another arm in Allard. The 25-year-old was actually drafted by Atlanta in the first round in 2015, but went to Rangers in 2019 in exchange for Chris Martin. He has pitched each of the last five MLB seasons, but has a career 6.07 ERA. He has decent control with a walk rate of 7.8% in his career, although his strikeout rate of 18.6% and ground ball rate of 37.8% are both below par. He had been part of the Rangers rotation from 2019-21, but was sent back to bullpen work in 2022. That move didn’t help him, as he had a 7.29 ERA in 21 off innings. of the enclosure.
Ultimately, it looks like both teams are giving up pitchers who weren’t in their plans for the future. Texas desperately needs rotational stability and will see if Odorizzi can provide it, with Atlanta helping them foot the bill. It will likely be one of many moves to address departing staff as they seek to emerge from their years-long rebuild. For Atlanta, they’re sending cash but will save at least a few bucks as they look to reorganize and chase a sixth straight NL East title.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand was the first to report the The Braves were paying $10 million of Odorizzi’s salary.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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