On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Rays traded second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-handed starter Jose De Leon. From the Rays' perspective, the deal accomplished a few things: some intended (adding one of the better pitching prospects in baseball) and some not (irking their franchise player).
While the Rays are notoriously slow when it comes to bringing prospects to the majors, De Leon boasts the advantage of having already appeared in the big leagues. Even without penciling in De Leon to the Opening Day rotation, the Rays have sufficient pitching depth to ponder a move. As it stands, Tampa Bay has Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Matt Andriese, De Leon and potentially Erasmo Ramirez as rotation options. Add in a few rising prospects -- most notably Brent Honeywell and Jacob Faria -- and the Rays will soon have more arms than slots.
If the Rays were to trade another starter, Odorizzi would be the favorite to go. Unlike Cobb, Odorizzi isn't coming off a lost year. Odorizzi threw a career-best 187 innings, all while posting a 110 ERA+ and a 3.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Odorizzi can be summed up as an athletic, midrotation starter whose free agency won't occur until after the 2019 season -- any acquiring team, then, would potentially add three years of above-average work for submarket pay.
Just which teams might make sense for Odorizzi? Let's hit on four teams who have the parts and the motive to make a move.
Earlier in the offseason, the Pirates were tied to Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana. Odorizzi isn't as good as Quintana -- few are -- but he'd give the Pirates another above-average, cost-controlled arm to pair with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, a near-necessity if the Pirates intend to keep up with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The Pirates certainly have the prospect war chest to make a deal -- and it stands to reason the price would be less than what the White Sox demanded for Quintana.
Similar to the Pirates above, the Astros have chased Quintana as well as Chris Archer this offseason. Odorizzi wouldn't represent the front-of-the-rotation stud Houston desires, but he would improve the rotation's talent level. The Rays and Astros have talked about prospect packages for Archer, so finding a match for Odorizzi would build upon previous groundwork.
Count the Braves as another team -- albeit not a contender -- who are known to have checked in on Archer. Odorizzi won't cause fans to pack SunTrust Park, but he would help the Braves become more respectable. That and Odorizzi's team control would justify moving some prospects from one of the best farm systems in baseball. Besides, the Braves would be doing well if some of their young pitchers turn into Odorizzi-caliber performers in the near future.
Always and forever. The Cubs have Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery to fill out their rotation now, meaning a trade for Odorizzi probably wouldn't come until midseason. Still, you can't make one of these lists without mentioning the Cubs. It's a law.