Posted on February 18, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Tampa Bay Rays spent the first Saturday night of spring training wheeling and dealing. First, they acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later. That move coincided with designating Corey Dickerson for assignment to free up a spot on the roster. Later, the Rays traded starter Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios.
Odorizzi going to the Twins is clearly the highlight of the night. The Rays have been open to trading Odorizzi for much of the offseason as a way to cut payroll. He’s been linked with several teams and the fact that the Rays pulled the trigger on a trade is not a surprise.
“There comes a point in time where you have to make some decisions and move some things forward,” Rays GM Erik Neander explained. “That’s just on a general level. We felt this was the best time to (trade Odorizzi), and we felt like this was the best offer.”
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It’s also not surprising that the Twins are the ones that landed Odorizzi. Minnesota has been in search of starting pitching help all offseason, and Odorizzi is a perfect fit. He will make just $10.4 million over the next two seasons before hitting free agency. At that price, he’s much more affordable for the small-market Twins than signing one of the top free agent starters available, most notably Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb.
The Twins became particularly desperate to add a starter when they learned that ace Ervin Santana will likely miss the first month of the season due to a finger surgery. Minnesota agreed to a deal with Anibal Sanchez on Friday, but that’s not enough to make up for the absence of Santana. The Twins needed a frontline starter, and Odorizzi provides that for them. Despite a somewhat pedestrian 4.14 ERA in 2017, Odorizzi had an ERA under 4 in three of the previous four seasons.
Meanwhile, the Rays still figure to have a quality rotation even without Odorizzi. Chris Archer, who has also been the subject of trade rumors, remains the ace of the staff. He’ll be supported by Blake Snell and Jake Faria, two youngsters with the potential to grow into frontline starters. Matt Andriese and Austin Pruitt will fill out of the rest of the rotation with highly-regarded prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon waiting in the wings.
The Rays are also high on Palacios, even though he’s only ranked as their 22nd best prospect, according to MLB.com. Neander believes the 21-year old Venezuelan shortstop has a well-rounded skill set and high upside offensively.
Finally, the Rays made a questionable move by acquiring Cron and letting go of Dickerson. Tampa Bay will save money on the swap, especially if they’re able to trade Dickerson. However, Dickerson was an all-star last year. Neander indicated that he believed the Rays were too left-handed heavy, prompting their interest in Cron.
With Cron on board, he’s likely to platoon at first base with Brad Miller. The absence of Dickerson also leaves the Rays without a full-time DH. At this point, the Rays could rotate several players at the DH spot. They could also pursue a free agent, possibly moving toward a reunion with Logan Morrison.
Overall, swapping Odorizzi and Dickerson for Cron and Palacios isn’t likely to make the Rays better in the short term. Offensively, Cron is a drop off from Dickerson, and obviously, Tampa’s rotation is worse without Odorizzi. However, the Rays do have the rotation depth to survive without Odorizzi. They also managed to save money through the two trades, which for the Rays was a top priority.