A Long Lasting Odor

At the beginning of July – so, before the All-Star Break – I wrote an article detailing three Texas Rangers players that I thought could be due for an extension. As most hypothetical things in baseball, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was the middle of the year, the Rangers had been doing a LOT better than expected, and those three – Shawn Tolleson, Robinson Chirinos, and Mitch Moreland – had a lot to do with their success. Could they still be extension candidates? Sure, but, with the exception of Moreland, maybe not now.

Tolleson still needs to prove that he can duplicate the success of his first year as the full-time closer of this club. Chirinos, while likely the primary catcher on this team, should probably sustain a full season of productivity and health before being rewarded with a higher dollar, one- or two- year contract. Moreland…Moreland is in that danger zone of being on the trading block with one year left in his initial contract, but having produced enough for the Rangers to consider whether it’d be better to keep a healthy, productive Moreland or a Prince Fielder who had a fantastic bounce back year after neck surgery. That’s certainly a quandary to be explored as the Winter goes on and deals get made.

The name I did not bring up was one Rougned Odor. At the time of my article, Odor had been recalled from the minors for all of two weeks. Remember that he had been sent down around the beginning of May because, to be blunt, he was just plain awful. He was slashing .144/.252/.233, swinging at anything resembling a little white pill with red laces no matter where it was thrown, and was having a rough time making plays on that same white pill no matter where it was batted. With as hot-headed a nature as Rougned Odor has, he was getting frustrated and it was showing. At the time of his demotion, he had sat in four out of his last five games. He was sent out by manager Jeff Banister to re-discover himself.

Odor did just that, revamping his approach at the plate, learning to be more selective, and as a result, slashing .355/.430/.645. He was recalled in the middle of June to contribute more at the plate, and as he became more comfortable in the lineup, and as Jeff Banister became more comfortable finding a spot for Odor, he continued to be the thorn that kept on pricking in the Rangers’ lineup. From that point on, June 15th to the end of the season, Odor raked a .292/.334/.527 slash line and ended up fifth among American League second basemen, tied for fifth among all Major League second basemen, in home runs.

To that end, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has let on that the Rangers will be exploring a longer term deal with Odor shortly after (hopefully) next Wednesday, the fourth of November. I saw a couple of people asking whether it was too soon to be looking at a deal for Odor, given that he still has two more seasons before even being arbitration eligible. Given his production after being called up, and especially given his strategically aggressive play in the Division Series, he’s on pace to be a huge bargain in the next couple of years – if the front office does nothing.

During Hot Stove, we always hear about teams over-paying in the back end of a contract in order to land the player they want and get the value of the contract paid for in the first few years. Here, with a player two years into his Major League career, we have the opposite. In 2015, Odor made a shade under $514,000. The value of a win (the value of WAR, Wins Above Replacement) was between $6 and $6.5 million. Over the course of the whole season, Odor was worth 1.9 wins. So really, you got the production value of a $12-14 million dollar player for half a million. I’m not advocating paying Odor $12-14 per year over the next six years, but I’m sure the Rangers could do something that would work out in both parties’ favors.

The Rangers have the opportunity to overpay before Odor becomes arbitration eligible in 2018 in order to save money during his arbitration years and have the scrappy 22-year old become an even bigger value down the road. Think about it (and remember that this assumes Rougie continues to do what he did after being recalled) : if the front office does not explore an extension, you get a heck of a deal in production for the next few years, sure, but when arbitration comes around, that’s a lot of money that the Rangers will have to allocate to Odor for the three seasons until free agency. During that time, you could get on-par production for the value…but what if you could get the production at less?

(Editor’s Note: Rougned Odor will probably fall just short of top 22% of games played by players with between two and three years of service, thus not qualifying as a Super Two player. A full season in 2016 will put him at 2.121 years of service and the cutoff hasn’t been below 2.122 the last five years. It’s going to be very close and if he does qualify, he will be arbitration eligible after the 2016 season and any arbitration years after that will be based on his new salary thus making his arbitration years even more expensive and an extension now even more valuable.)

That’s what this extension, presumably, would do. It’s similar to what the team did with Martin Perez after 2013, buying out the lefty’s initial contract and holding team options for his arbitration years. Now, the team controls what Perez makes and the whole rigamarole of arbitration, having to exchange figures and meet in the middle and having to do so before someone else decides how much Perez makes, is avoided. At the point that Perez signed his extension, he had only pitched the equivalent of one full season, 32 games, 26 starts, over 2012-2013.

For Odor, definitely an embodiment of not just #NeverEverQuit, but also of the dirtbag, aggressive, scrappy, calculated risk-taking style of baseball that energizes this team, not only would an extension be a reward for the past two years of baseball, but it would also anchor another core team member as the Rangers continue to work to stay competitive.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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