In a roundabout way, Lance Lynn performed an important function for the Twins starting rotation this week, more than a year after his unfortunate tenure as a member of it ended.
Lynn, you see, was a cautionary tale that Jake Odorizzi heeded in his deliberations about whether to accept the one-year qualifying offer from the Twins.
"I didn't want to be sitting on my couch come February because of some teams not wanting to lose a draft pick," Odorizzi said Friday, the day after he put off his free agency for a year in order to escape the draft-pick penalty that bidders would have to pay to sign him this winter. Lynn, burdened by the same restriction two winters ago, never found a multiyear deal to his liking, finally agreed to a one-year deal with the Twins in mid-March 2018, and underachieved in four months in Minnesota before being unloaded to the Yankees in a July trade.
"If you asked Lance, not having spring training really hindered him that year," Odorizzi said of his former teammate. "And look what he did this year after having a [long-term] contract and being back on a normal [training camp schedule]." In 2019, Lynn won 16 games for Texas and finished fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
That's the sort of performance Odorizzi hopes to summon himself in 2020, an All-Star-level season that he can market to bidders a year from now without the draft-pick penalty, which cannot be attached two straight years, driving down his value.
"I wanted to make the choice, not have teams try to make the choice for me, and just have to accept what they wanted to throw my way," the 29-year-righthander said. "Ultimately, it's just betting on myself. I have the utmost confidence in going out and having a better year than I had last year and being at the top of next year's market."
Bettering last year's performance, when Odorizzi posted a 3.51 ERA over 159 innings and struck out a career-high 178, would delight the Twins, too. And while Odorizzi gave no hints that the Twins have discussed signing him for more years than just 2020, he said he's interested in it if they are.
"I enjoy Minnesota. I've been very vocal about the culture there, the time I've spent there," Odorizzi said. "[I've] kind of taken Minnesota as a second home in a short amount of time. … My ears are open for whatever they'd like to do."
Odorizzi had 10 days to decide whether to accept the qualifying offer, a sped-up timeline that he said really wasn't enough time to make certain he would receive market-value offers, partly because some teams hadn't even finalized their offseason plans. "The majority of teams" expressed interest in him, Odorizzi said, and some even threw out possible contract parameters. But while "interest is really great," he said, "interest doesn't have a dollar figure to it."
The compensation system, he said, "is a flawed system. But it's one that is in place and we have to abide by the rules. … With the qualifying offer attached, you're more of a restricted free agent instead of unrestricted."
Ultimately, he decided not to risk Lynn's fate, or that of Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, who sat out until June last season, even if it meant risking potentially $30-40 million guaranteed this year. And he's already started a throwing program intended to make him even better next year.
"It's definitely motivating," Odorizzi said.