Cubs missed out again, this time on free agent hurler Jake Odorizzi

Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

Free agent right-hander Jake Odorizzi was still out there on the market, looking for a new home. Now, if only there was a team in need of a proven starting pitcher to bolster its rotation…

Oh, right. The Chicago Cubs are that team – yet weren’t connected to Odorizzi even once this offseason. The latest reports had Houston and Toronto, as well as “other” teams interested in the 30-year-old former All-Star as the first week of spring training games wrap up – but it looks like he’s inking a two-year deal with the Astros.

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Last year was a lost season for Odorizzi, who battled an array of injuries that kept him to just 13 2/3 innings of work for Minnesota. But if you look to his career up to that point, specifically from 2014 to 2019, this guy has quietly been a workhorse for the Rays and Twins.

During that stretch, he averaged 30 starts and 165 innings pitched annually. He’s not an ace – nor does he expect to be paid like one. Odorizzi is reportedly seeking a three-year deal in the $13 to $15 million range and will wait as long as it takes to secure such a contract.

The Cubs made so much sense for him it’s not even funny. We know the roster, as a whole, is going to undergo plenty of change in the months to come, particularly around the trade deadline. But pitching will be more integral to teams’ success in 2021 than perhaps ever before – and Chicago doesn’t have what it takes to weather the storm.

Cubs need a steadying presence like Jake Odorizzi in the rotation

Kyle Hendricks will get the ball on Opening Day and is the ace of this team. But after him, we don’t really know what to expect from his rotation mates. Zach Davies, who came over in the Yu Darvish trade, is coming off the best season of his career. But in his final year of team control, we’ll have to see if he can replicate that success with the Cubs. 

A hodgepodge of Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay will round out the rotation this season. None of them can be counted as sure things at this point. Arrieta isn’t the same pitcher who once dominated on the North Side, Williams is coming off back-to-back lackluster showings with Pittsburgh and both Mills and Alzolay are unproven.

Adding a steadying presence like Odorizzi to the mix would have immediately boosted this staff and given second-year manager David Ross some stability in his rotation. Most teams are expecting to need far more than five starting pitchers as arms transition from a 60-game slate to a full 162-game schedule this season.

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The luxury tax threshold wasn’t a factor in this hypothetical pursuit. Chicago would have remained well under that mark – and given the team will likely shed payroll at the deadline, that further reinforces the fact the Cubs hurting themselves  yet again by not looking at the top remaining free agent arm available.