FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins took a major step toward solidifying their rotation late Saturday night, acquiring right-hander Jake Odorizzi from the Rays for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios, the club announced.
Minnesota was in the market for starting pitching even after agreeing to terms with right-hander Anibal Sanchez on a one-year, $2.5 million deal on Friday. To make room for Odorizzi, the Twins placed right-hander Michael Pineda on the 60-day disabled list, but they will have to make a move for Sanchez, which could be placing right-hander Trevor May on the 60-day DL.
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"Jake is someone we targeted going back to last year," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Sunday. "He's a guy who has had a lot of success in the American League East. We knew a lot about his makeup and who he was as a pitcher. During this offseason with the uniqueness around free agency and some trades, it just took a bit longer than normal. But we had interest in him throughout the winter."
The Twins could look to add more starting pitching, but it appears unlikely now that manager Paul Molitor is leaning toward opening the year with a four-man rotation because of off-days early in the season. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are considered locks. Ervin Santana is out for the first two to four weeks of the season due to surgery on his right middle finger. With Odorizzi now on board, the fourth spot will come down to a battle between candidates such as Phil Hughes, Adalberto Mejia, Tyler Duffey and Sanchez.
"I'm not going to turn my phone off," Falvey said. "We'll stay in touch. We've added six Major League pitchers this offseason with Michael Pineda [added] with more of an eye for the end of the year, but we've attempted to address our pitching staff and will continue to do so."
Odorizzi, 27, fills a major need for the Twins and has a career 3.83 ERA in 129 appearances (126 starts) since 2012. He has struck out 643, walked 232 and allowed 101 homers in 705 1/3 innings. The Twins had been linked to Rays right-hander Chris Archer, but opted for Odorizzi, who is under control through '19 and will earn $6.3 million this year after winning his arbitration case against Tampa Bay.
Odorizzi went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA and 127 strikeouts, 61 walks and 30 homers allowed in 143 1/3 innings last year, missing time with both a strained left hamstring and a lower back strain. He has solid secondary pitches with his cutter, slider and curveball, but struggled with his fastball last year, as hitters had a .462 slugging percentage against it with 14 homers, per Statcast™.
"He dealt with a few injuries and things he tried to pitch through," Falvey said. "We thought what he did, especially toward the back end of the year, is what he's done consistently."
Odorizzi has never topped 190 innings, but has a 3.71 ERA over the last three seasons, with 443 strikeouts in 500 1/3 innings. He had a 3.47 ERA in 12 starts in the second half of last year, including a 1.03 ERA over his final five outings.
"This puts us in great shape," Molitor said. "This just deepens us. He's left an impression on me over the years."
Palacios, 21, slashed .296/.333/.454 with 21 doubles, 10 triples, 13 home runs and 20 steals in 124 games between Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers last season. The Twins have plenty of shortstop depth in their system with top prospects such as Nick Gordon, Wander Javier and Royce Lewis. Palacios was their 27th-ranked overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline.
"It's tough because we like Palacios a lot," Falvey said. "But we feel like we have a little bit of depth in the middle infield."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Moving from an offensively charged American League East to an AL Central with three retooling clubs, Odorizzi should continue to have standard-league relevancy as long as he manages to lower his 3.8 BB/9 rate and career-worst 1.9 HR/9 rate from last year. The biggest fantasy winner from this trade appears to be Rays No. 1 prospect Brent Honeywell, who should be drafted in shallow leagues given his impressive career Minor League stats (2.88 ERA, 4.9 K/BB ratio) and lofty ceiling for 2018.<!--