With the announcement Jim Hickey has been hired as pitching coach, could Jake Odorizzi be lured to the Washington Nationals in free agency?
On the surface some might ask why the Washington Nationals would want Jake Odorizzi. He is coming off an injury plagued year where he was paid $17.8M. These are not encouraging reasons to sign him as he enters free agency.
What is encouraging is his old pitching coach, Jim Hickey, is now calling the Washington Nationals his new employer. If the Nats can agree to a contract with Odorizzi in the free agent market, getting these two chums together may pay dividends down the road.
Odorizzi spent five years with the Tampa Bay Rays, all of which were under the tutelage of Hickey. During that time Odorizzi won 40 games and had an ERA of 3.82.
Both Hickey and Odorizzi left the Rays following the 2017 season. Hickey was let go after 12 years as the pitching coach and Odorizzi was traded to the Minnesota Twins.
After a subpar first season in Minnesota, Odorizzi rebounded for an All-Star campaign in 2018 where he was 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA.
Rather than enter free agency at the end of the year, he accepted the Twins qualifying offer of $17.8M. Odorizzi’s stock may have been at its highest point, yet he chose not to take his chances on the open market.
HIs 2020 season was awful. He was on the injured list three separate times, limiting him to only four starts. Outside of the back strain he suffered during Summer Camp, his injuries shouldn’t raise questions with teams seeking his services. A blister and chest contusion (from a ball he took off the bat of Alex Gordon) were the other two causes for injured list visits.
A reunion would be fitting for this pitcher with his old coach. Odorizzi had the following to say after Hickey was let go from Tampa:
"“Hick was the best pitching coach I have ever been around, He helped me grow a lot as a pitcher over the time I was fortunate to work with him. So a lot of the pitcher I am today is because of him and the work he put in with me. I was blindsided by the news as I think most were, very unexpected. I know where ever he goes next that team will be getting a great leader to their pitching staff. And who knows maybe we will work together again down the road at some point.”"
With the uncertainty of Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth, as well as Max Scherzer coming off the books following the 2021 season, a run at Jake Odorizzi may be in the best interest of the Washington Nationals.