KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For a stretch, Jake Odorizzi kept the snapshot in his mind: One day, if the stars were aligned, he’d become the Royals’ main man, the stopper, the crown jewel of the giant crown along I-70. Instead, he’ll go down in Kansas City history as the man traded for one ace, then traded two years later for another.
History’s funny like that.
“(It’s my) second trade, obviously, so both times, it’s been (for) good pitchers,” Odorizzi told FOXSportsKansasCity.com Monday, less than 18 hours after he was shipped from the Royals to Tampa Bay. “I think it’s kind of humbling, I guess.”
Of course, flattery sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. In December 2010, the 22-year-old was the pitching centerpiece of the haul the Milwaukee Brewers sent back in exchange for Zack Grienke. On Sunday night, he played the part of sexy bait again, this time in a package from the Royals to the Rays, bringing veteran arms James Shields and Wade Davis in return. Shields — 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA this past summer — is projected to hold down the No. 1 slot in the new-look Kansas City rotation.
“They definitely put themselves in a position to compete in the American League Central,” Odorizzi said of his now-former team, for whom he made two starts in September after posting an 11-3 record at Triple-A Omaha.
“Anytime there’s a trade like that, there’s always mixed emotions. It’s the same way when I was traded the first time — there were mixed feelings on both sides. That’s the nature of trades; some people are happy about it, some people aren’t.”
And don’t get him wrong; Odorizzi is plenty happy at what went down — just a little, well, shocked.
“(I had) no indication,” said the Highland, Ill., native, who posted a 25-12 record in the minors since coming over from the Brewers’ system. “I hadn’t heard myself talked about in trades. Obviously, everybody talked about Wil (Myers, the key hitter in the deal), and about moving him, but yeah, I was caught off-guard a little bit.”
The news came at roughly 9:50 p.m. Sunday, when the phone rang at Odorizzi’s home. Jake’s wife, Carissa — the couple had tied the knot in early November — wondered who could be calling at that hour, and surmised that something might be shaking on the Royals front.
“She was (like), ‘Well, here we go,'” Odorizzi recalled. “We already knew what was going on. Sure enough, that’s what happened.”
Her instincts were spot-on: It was Scott Sharp, the Royals’ director of player development, who told the young pitcher that there was “about a 99 percent chance” that he was going to be traded.
Jake called his parents at 10:15 p.m. or so — about the same time as the news broke to the media — to tell them he’d been shipped to Tampa, and that he’d let them know more details Monday.
“Then when I looked in the paper and saw who all had been traded, I was like, ‘Wow,'” Jake’s father Mike said of the swap, in which the Rays acquired four Kansas City prospects, including Myers, Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. “It was a pretty big deal.”
Already in his third organization in five years, Odorizzi is one of the rare arms who can say he’s been traded for both quantity and quality. In the case of Grienke and Shields, that’s two All-Stars with a career record of 178-151 combined, a couple of anchors who’ve averaged 13 wins per season over the past half-decade.
“I look back on it, it was great. The two years I was there were fantastic,” Odorizzi said of his stint in Kansas City blue. “All the guys I got to meet — all the coaches, the teammates I had, the front office, everybody was friendly, a class-act organization. They handled everything well, and I enjoyed my time thoroughly from Day 1.”
That said, he’s also ready to turn the page. Odorizzi’s stoked to be going south with Myers, his roommate for most of this past summer in Omaha. And stoked to join a Rays club that’s averaged 91.6 wins over the past five seasons, stoked to join a staff that includes American League Cy Young winner David Price.
“I guess I’ve been included in two pretty all-right deals when it comes to trades,” Odorizzi noted, “So it’s flattering, definitely.”
Then he paused.
“But I want to work that much harder, to maybe be that person one day who is that big starter, or whatever the case may be. Not the (other) player that gets traded.”