After last year’s breakout performance, Rougned Odor is reportedly talking about a long-term deal with the Texas Rangers.
Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor broke out in a big way last season, his third at the MLB level. While he grabbed the most headlines for his brouhaha on the base paths with Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, the young infielder was somewhat quietly a major source of offense for the AL West champs.
Now, the Rangers appear ready to reward the 23-year-old for the fast start to his career by signing him to a long-term deal. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, Texas and Odor have resumed extension talks from earlier this offseason, and there is “hope” something can get done.
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Heyman says that Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is being used as a comparison for Odor in this situation (both are repped by the same agents). A 27-year-old Kipnis signed a six-year, $52.5 million deal including a seventh-year option with the Tribe during the 2014 season. That move has paid off handsomely for Cleveland so far: Over the last two seasons, Kipnis has slashed .289/.357/.460 with 32 home runs and 134 RBI. His 9.8 fWAR in that span ranks third among all major league second basemen, trailing only Jose Altuve (11.2) and Ian Kinsler (10.0).
As Heyman points out, Odor is significantly younger than Kipnis was then, which could factor into his negotiations with the Rangers. By the same token, it could also further motivate Texas in terms of their willingness to hand him a long-term deal rather early on in his career. Odor may not have the resumé of two-time All-Star Kipnis quite yet, but if the 2016 campaign was any indication, he is well on his way and then some. He slashed .271/.296/.502 in 150 games, generating a 106 wRC+.
The big development for Odor last year was his power surge. He socked 33 home runs, the third-most among second basemen behind Brian Dozier (42) and Robinson Cano (39). At a position not typically known for its offensive output, that’s legitimate power.
Is Odor likely to keep up the pace? He posted a 17 percent HR/FB (home run to fly ball) ratio, a notable 5.2 percent increase from the season before when he belted 16 homers in 30 fewer games. While some regression is certainly possible in 2017, Odor still plays his home games in a definite hitter’s park and should once again knock his share of round-trippers.
However, along with the power came some decline in plate discipline. Odor’s strikeout rate rose from 16.8 percent to 21.4 percent over the past two seasons, while his walk rate dropped from 4.9 percent to 3.0 percent. The Rangers would likely accept that if the ball keeps flying off his bat, but that trend could also cause him problems in the future if it continues.
Odor isn’t eligible for arbitration until next year and is under team control through the 2020 season, so the Rangers would be buying out all his arb years and then some. It’s a strategy you’re seeing more from teams as they try to turn their young talent into cost-controlled assets for the foreseeable future. Immediate financial security is sometimes enough for players to forestall free agency.
It’s easy to forget that Odor is actually younger than both Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo. Given the uncertainty of those two former top prospects, it makes sense that the Rangers would want to lock Odor down given that he’s already started to establish himself convincingly as a big league player. Any early extension situation like this is always something of a gamble, but the payoff is potentially huge if Odor continues to progress.