Frankie Montas has been the name most attached to the Cardinals in their pitching search, yet St. Louis has also been exploring other rotation options. The Cards and Astros have discussed the possibility of a trade involving veteran righty Jake Odorizzi, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. In addition, such names as Noah Syndergaard and Nathan Eovaldi were “at least discussed internally” by the Cardinals’ front office as possible targets.
Odorizzi has been on the Cards’ radar for some time, as the club considered signing the right-hander as a free agent during the 2020-21 offseason. Instead, Odorizzi signed a two-year deal with Houston worth $23.25MM in guaranteed money, with the 2023 season also covered via a $6.25MM player option with a $3.25MM buyout. A variety of injuries have limited Odorizzi to 157 2/3 innings over his two years with the Astros, but he has posted a 4.22 ERA despite only a 19.5% strikeout rate. The righty has relied on above-average walk rates and (in 2022) an outstanding hard-contact rate to retire batters.
Acquiring Odorizzi would have some echoes of the Cards’ deadline moves last year, when they landed veterans Jon Lester, J.A. Happ, and Wade LeBlanc in the wake of several rotation injuries. Odorizzi at least has much better bottom-line results than that trio did when St. Louis swung those trades, and yet the Cardinals’ hope in a turn-around was rewarded, as all three pitched well and helped the Cards reach the wild card game.
St. Louis fans weren’t overly impressed with the club’s strategy at last year’s deadline, and given all the other big names linked to the Cards in trade rumors this summer, landing “only” Odorizzi to address the rotation could be again seen as underwhelming. However, since the A’s are known to be asking for a ton for Montas and surely the Angels and Red Sox would want a good return even for rentals like Syndergaard or Eovaldi, Odorizzi could be a decent Plan C-type of option if the Cards feel the other asking prices are too high…..or, if the Cardinals direct their prospect capital towards acquiring someone like Juan Soto.
It is also possible that the Cardinals could land more than one of these pitchers, as the club has an increasingly acute need for rotation depth. Beyond Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Andre Pallante, Dakota Hudson (activated off the 15-day injured list today) and Matthew Liberatore comprise the current starting five, as Jack Flaherty is still weeks away from returning from shoulder problems.
Steven Matz was supposed to provide some help when he returned from his own IL stint last week, except the left-hander tore his MCL in his return start. It isn’t known yet if Matz will need surgery, yet President of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Goold and other reporters today that there is only a “sliver” of a chance Matz pitches again in 2022, and it will be “very, very difficult to get him back this year.”
Turning to the Astros’ situation, trading Odorizzi would seem like an unusual move for a World Series contender that theoretically would want as much pitching depth as possible for a deep run through October. However, the Astros could feel they have such depth already, with a six-man rotation on the active roster, Lance McCullers Jr. on his way back from the 60-day IL, and some other young arms in reserve in the minors.
To that end, Houston has reportedly been willing to discuss trades of controllable pitchers with other teams. Odorizzi doesn’t exactly fit that description, of course, but it would seem like the Astros would be a lot more open to moving a veteran rather than a longer-term rotation piece like Cristian Javier or Jose Urquidy.