Two hours remain in Christmas and getting our gifts under the tree is already starting to feel like a distant memory. The family is still around, but the token conversation topics are no longer working and suddenly talking with your aunt has become an aggravating experience. But Christmas is not over yet. Beyond the two additional hours, there is that story you were waiting for the opportunity to tell and the gift you are hoping against hope that you get in the mail soon. There is the holiday spirit that will continue to pervade the world around us, whether your decorations will be up tomorrow and the next day because of that spirit or because of simple laziness. And there is that gift you did not get, haunting you in the back of your head. For Jake Odorizzi, he can tell himself that things are out of his control. But his frustration lingers, and there is nothing he can do but wait.
The only thing standing between Jake Odorizzi and a starting rotation spot for the Tampa Bay Rays is a trade of David Price. Odorizzi has proved his worth. He entered the season with fastball command a significant concern and his secondary pitches that were still works in progress. He finished the year with as much confidence as ever. He had several shining moments in the major leagues interspersed between a fabulous Triple-A season, and in doing so he broke through every obstacle in his path. By the end of his big league stint, he was locating his fastball down in the zone with ease and showing flashes with his curveball and changeup more and more. Odorizzi spent this season as depth, the sixth or seventh starter if injuries took place–those injuries did happen, so he got his chance. This year, he is ready to make an impact and establish himself in the major leagues. The only thing stopping him is that David Price is still in town.
In 2014, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb will headline the Rays’ rotation followed by Chris Archer and Jeremy Hellickson. But with Price there, Odorizzi will head back to Triple-A no matter how ready he is. After Hellickson’s bad year, Odorizzi can tell himself he has a chance in spring training, that if he succeeds and Hellickson struggles, the Rays will choose him. But is it really true? Will Joe Maddon, he who continued to trust Fernando Rodney and Jake McGee early on last season when they could not get anybody out, and he who puts struggling hitters in the leadoff spot to get them going, really throw one of his players under the bus like that? It is a fantasy that Odorizzi would possibly make the Rays’ roster out of spring training if the Rays do not trade David Price. Somewhere deep down, he knows that.
For Jake Odorizzi, a David Price trade is that gift he thinks and hopes and prays is coming. He heard them whispering about it over Thanksgiving and he knows they wanted to get it for him. But what if it cost more than they thought? What if it was never available to begin with? What if it was just an idea floated out there, one that never made sense when put into practice? Odorizzi will keep waiting, hoping that despite the fact that it has taken this long and that there is no guarantee it will happen at all, the David Price trade that gives him an opportunity is coming around the corner. Then, in his mind, Christmas will truly be over, and real life will start setting in again.