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Odorizzi glad to be back — and free of qualifying offer

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (12) pitches in the first inning against Los Angeles Angels at Target Field in May. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins’ newly re-signed starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi is ready to bet on himself.

After accepting the Twins’ one-year $17.8 million qualifying offer on Thursday, Odorizzi, 29, seems eager to continue building on what he called his “best” season in 2019, comfortable with the risk of playing on a one-year deal.

In his mind, going into free agency this season without the guarantee of a potential deal was a riskier proposition, especially with $17.8 million sitting on the table as an option.

“We gauged the market. There was a lot of interest,” Odorizzi said.

With the deadline to accept the qualifying offer on Thursday and the unknown of the potential free-agent market, the 29-year-old right-hander felt it was best to return on a one-year deal instead of holding out for a multi-year deal worth more money.

“When it came down to it, the decision came to me betting on myself and returning to a place I know really well and really enjoyed,” he said.

The deal allows him to be a free agent next summer, without the inclusion of potential draft pick compensation to scare away potential suitors, something Odorizzi said he found was a big factor when talking to teams this year.

“I think it’s obviously a determining factor for teams. It’s unfortunate,” Odorizzi said, speaking about a free agent system he called “flawed.” “In no context is the qualifying offer player-friendly. There’s a lot of money attached to one year, but as a player, you play six years to be a free agent, but in some instances, it takes seven years to become a free agent because the qualifying offer’s attached.”

However, Odorizzi said his interest in returning to the Twins never left, and he’s excited to return for another season, adding that he is open to a long-term extension with the team. But, he said, that is up to the front office to decide.

In his second season with the Twins, Odorizzi’s 3.51 earned-run average was the lowest of the starting pitchers and the second-best of his career, only behind 2015 when he had a 3.35 ERA. He also made the all-star team, and registered the most wins (15) and strikeouts (178 in 159 innings) of his career. Currently, he is the midst of his offseason training program, focusing on making small improvements, including limiting his walks and upping his innings pitched.

With only Odorizzi and Jose Berrios expected to return from last year’s pitching rotation, the Twins are in the market for another top-flight free agent or two, and Odorizzi is hopeful they will land one.

“There’s room to add more players, and I think that is what they have to do,” he said. “I think we saw it first-hand this year, that starting pitching is a big necessity for a postseason team, more so than other positions when it comes down to it.”

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