Rougned’s Reign in Texas Is Officially Over

The long Rougned Odor era in Texas has ended. On Tuesday, the Texas Rangers traded their second baseman, the incumbent since 2014, to the New York Yankees for minor league outfielders Antonio Cabello and Josh Stowers. The trade represents the final dismantling of the team’s longtime Odor-Elvis Andrus double play combo, a process that began last September when the cellar-bound team benched both players.

The interests are clear for both sides of this minor trade. The Rangers had already all but moved on from Odor despite the two seasons remaining on the six-year, $49.5 million contract he agreed to before the 2017 season. The second baseman didn’t even make the team’s final roster cuts this spring; he was designated for assignment last week. So getting two players in return for a guy they were willing to let go for free had to be attractive to the Rangers. In 2017, Odor was still just 23 and coming off two very solid seasons as the starter, albeit with some notable flaws. Odor’s power was always compelling, but his glovework was inconsistent, and though his contact rates weren’t that lousy, he still had abysmal strikeout-to-walk ratios. Odor never really developed an ability to leverage plate discipline into actual performance. For example, where the league tends to slug about .650 after 1-0 and 2-0 counts, Odor was only about 50 points above his career slugging percentage in these situations.

ZiPS didn’t anticipate much growth from Odor from age-23 on due to these issues, but thought he would at least plateau as a low-OBP hitter with excellent power for a second baseman and a below-average glove that wasn’t so abysmal as to force a move off the position.

ZiPS Projections – Rougned Odor (Pre-2017)
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2017 .275 .311 .496 601 86 165 32 7 29 92 25 115 12 112 -7 2.7
2018 .278 .317 .514 580 85 161 33 7 30 92 26 114 12 118 -7 3.0
2019 .276 .317 .516 580 86 160 33 8 30 93 28 116 12 119 -7 3.0
2020 .278 .320 .530 579 88 161 33 7 33 97 29 119 11 123 -7 3.4
2021 .274 .317 .525 573 87 157 32 8 32 95 29 120 11 121 -6 3.2
2022 .272 .316 .517 559 84 152 30 7 31 92 29 117 10 119 -7 2.9
2023 .271 .315 .516 543 81 147 29 7 30 88 28 108 9 118 -8 2.6

Instead, Odor regressed considerably, scattering months of dominance (such as a .916 OPS in July 2017) in with long stretches where he struggled to perform like a major leaguer (.656 was his second-best monthly OPS that year).

Now 27, it makes more sense to see Odor in light of what he is rather than what he possibly could be. And at this point, what he is is a role player at best. With the Rangers needing a more extensive overhaul than they previously thought, Odor’s utility to the team was limited; Brock Holt and Charlie Culberson are around and both better defensively than Odor, as well as more versatile.

But instead of nothing, Texas got two prospects, who could be something someday to a winning team. Stowers is the lesser light here, and should he make it to the majors, it will likely be as a fifth-outfielder type. He has little power, but he’s willing to draw a walk and can play an adequate center field: from the Gameday data, ZiPS saw him as about a run below-average in center field and six runs better than average in right. While the on-base percentages have been solid, he hasn’t performed that well for a college draftee playing levels he’s been quite old for. At 24 and topping out in the Sally League, it’s very possible that Stowers crashes and burns at a higher level where pitchers will make walks harder-earned.

Whereas the “prospect” label might be a bit generous for Stowers, it’s legitimate when it comes to Cabello. He’s not an elite prospect, mind you, but no team was going to give up an elite prospect for Odor, even with the Rangers picking up nearly all of his salary. My colleague Eric Longenhagen ranked Cabello as the 23rd-best prospect on the Yankees prior to the start of this season (Stowers was an honorable mention). Cabello’s future, however, is still speculative, even more so after the lost 2020 minor league season and a shoulder injury he suffered in 2019. I’m not sure whether the Rangers will be interested in revisiting Cabello at catcher after so much missed developmental time for his bat, but the possibility at least exists.

The Rangers have nothing to lose at this point, so expect to see a lot more prospects of this sort get added to a farm system that’s far from overflowing with offensive talent.

Going back to Odor, the Yankees are simply interested in an extra power bat with Luke Voit out and Jay Bruce filling in at first for him. Left-handed power plays well in Yankee Stadium’s current configuration, and Odor’s ability to at least fake playing second and third is one that Bruce doesn’t possess. That the financial commitments are virtually non-existent makes the decision fairly simple for the Bronx Bombers. Odor may be headed to free agency once Voit returns, and the Yankees will have to decide between their lefty slugger reserves, but for now, he gives the team an additional option. Thairo Estrada was designated for assignment to make room for Odor on the 40-man roster.

With Rougned Odor following Elvis Andrus out of Texas, the Rangers’ infield looks a lot different than it did last year. Given how the Rangers played, that’s probably a good thing.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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mikejunt
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mikejunt

why didn’t you say “The Lingering Odor Era in Texas is over”?