FORT MYERS, FLA. -- There is quite a dance taking place with the future of baseball in the Tampa Bay area. Earlier this month, it was announced the Rays had signed on for the pursuit of an $800 million stadium in the Ybor City area of Tampa. This would require a great deal of public investment, and there is no plan yet in place from which to draw that money.
Meantime, the Rays seem to have embarked on a controversial strategy to demonstrate the need for a new stadium:
Rather than building enthusiasm for the upcoming season, they have talked publicly of the need to reduce payroll, and took a pair of bold actions on that front on Saturday night.
It could be pointed out the Twins tried the desperate approach – all the way to volunteering for contraction – in the late 1990s and start of the 2000s without success. It wasn’t until three straight division titles from 2002 to 2004 helped generate some enthusiasm that Hennepin County’s financing plan was approved by the Legislature on May 20, 2006.
Target Field opened in 2010, Miami got its new stadium in 2012, and that has left MLB with only two locations suffering because of aged, unappealing stadiums: Tampa Bay, with Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Oakland, in whatever the Coliseum is being called these days.
I was talking to Marc Topkin, the Rays reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, on Monday and he said the front office was being asked to reduce the payroll from the high 70s in millions to the mid-60s.
Mainly, I wanted to ask Topkin about the Twins’ chance to acquire starting pitcher Chris Archer. Topkin’s answer was it was highly unlikely Archer would be traded – that a package including Max Kepler, Nick Gordon and a top pitching prospect would not be enough.
His message was that if the Twins wanted a starter from the Rays, the one they could get was Jake Odorizzi.
And that’s what happened on Saturday night:
First, the Rays designated for assignment Chris Dickerson, an All-Star in 2017, rather than pay his $5.95 million salary. They brought in C.J. Cron ($2.3 million) from the Angels to take his place, and hope to trade Dickerson in the next 10 days.
As the smattering of Rays followers in Tampa Bay were digesting that, the word got out around 9:45 p.m. Eastern that the Twins had acquired Odorizzi from the Rays, and did so by surrendering their fourth best shortstop prospect in 21-year-old Jermaine Palacios.
It was announced Thursday that Odorizzi had won his arbitration case for $6.3 million, at the same time it was revealed Twins starter Kyle Gibson had lost his case.
Odorizzi and the Rays had gone to arbitration two straight years. He had beaten them and received a $4.1 million salary in 2017.
The Rays were on the hook for $6 million even if they had beaten Odorizzi in arbitration, so he was going to get traded either way.
The Twins and the Rays had been talking about this trade for a month. They asked about Archer, even made an offer, but the true possibility of getting a deal done was for Odorizzi.
The latest Twins prospect ratings on MLB.com have shortstops Royce Lewis and Gordon Nos. 1 and 2, and shortstop Wander Javier at No. 5. Palacios was rated No. 28; well thought-of by people who watched him in Class A last season, but expendable for the reward of a badly needed veteran starter.
Odorizzi throws in the low-90s with a mix of as many as six pitches. He’s from southern Illinois, near St. Louis, and he’s a big hockey fan. We should be able to handle that need for him in Minnesota.
The Twins are going to make room for Odorizzi by putting Michael Pineda on the 60-day disabled list. They can do the same for Anibal Sanchez by putting Trevor May on the 60-day disabled list. He’s coming back from Tommy John and the team’s timeline had May on the mound in mid-May.
The injury to ace Ervin Santana, the timeline for May, the lack of optimism over Phil Hughes’ future – the Twins had to make a move for an established starter, and Odorizzi qualifies.