The Rangers Should Consider Trading Rougned Odor

Assuming you've read the title of this article -- and if you're here, there's a better than decent chance that you have -- you already know the direction I'm heading with this. So, don't call for the lynch mob. At least not yet. Hear me out.

The Texas Rangers should absolutely consider trading Rougned Odor. Right now.

Of course, they should be sure to get the right trade partner to maximize the value, but it's something the front office should consider.

In 2016, Odor saw both his popularity and his power surge. After a 2015 season that saw him surge after a stint back in the minors, he entered 2016 with a bang. Quite literally, his right hook to Jose Bautista was something resembling monumental, and immediately made him a fan-favorite. Combine that with the 33 home runs he hit, and we're talking about a player that it's not exactly popular to say should be traded. At least not since he's under club control through 2020.

But really, that's precisely what might make him a valuable commodity on the trade market. By this point, we realize that Rougie will hit home runs. That's also valuable on the trade market. And in reality, the Rangers already have a replacement on the roster. His name is Jurickson Profar.

Profar, for his part, has had something of a tumultuous career. Once the top prospect in baseball only a year after the previous top prospect became the top player in baseball, Profar came up with lofty expectations, and immediately suffered setback after setback. In 2013, he was a man without a position in Ron Washington's scheme. When the Rangers made room for him by trading Ian Kinsler, he got hurt. By the time he got back onto the field in 2016, Rougned Odor had already entrenched himself as "the guy" at second base.

Even after a torrid start that saw him put up a wRC+ of 121 in the first half of the season, he ran into a wall in the second half, posting a wRC+ of 44. Even still, all indications from baseball people who are way smarter than myself seem to be that Profar's "tools" are all intact. That is, bat speed, contact ability, and plate discipline.

Those last two are a major point of emphasis for me. Even as Odor swatted 33 home runs, he was dead last among all qualifying hitters in baseball in walk rate (3.0%) in 2016. His sub-.300 on-base percentage also left something to be desired. Combine that with porous defense at a premium infield position, and we're talking about a player who is, at the very least, mildly overrated.

Going back to Profar, I'd be inclined to believe that his 2016 production is probably his absolute floor as far as future value goes. Having missed two full seasons of baseball, being called into Major League action earlier than the Rangers had originally intended, I think many of us expected him to eventually run into a wall. Maybe not to such the extreme that he did, but that expectation was still there. And now, with a season under his belt, you're looking at player that still presumably has the assets that had scouts raving about him three or four years ago.

Even after running into that wall, Profar's OBP and walk rates were both significantly higher while also keeping his strikeouts lower. No, Profar may never quite approach 30 home runs, but he can more than make up for it with superior on-base skills and defense. Much like pitchers and strikeouts, those two are perhaps the hardest for a player to improve. By the time you've reached the highest level of the game, you've either got it or you don't. Any improvement in that area isn't likely to be significant, especially with the plate discipline.

Another important factor to consider is that, should the Rangers choose to do so, Profar could actually be cheaper to extend long-term. Odor's agent reportedly turned down a six-year, $35 million offer back in July, and it's not unreasonable to think that Texas could get Profar extended through, say 2021 or 2022 at around $6 million or so a season.

Doing an incremental analysis of the situation, even in the worst-case scenario, you're not looking at much of a production dip by playing Jurickson Profar over Rougned Odor. At best, Profar's contact rate goes up and he ends up providing additional value.

Home runs are amazing. They're fun to watch and when they come at the end of the game, they're even more spectacular. And yet, OBP is the driving force behind the best offensive players. It's Mike Trout's .441 OBP that made him such a threat rather than his 29 home runs. In that same line of thinking, an eye-popping career .444 OBP was what made Barry Bonds so versatile and dangerous beyond just home runs. It's why in his age-42 season, he was still dangerous with a .480 OBP in 2007.

Saying all that, if Texas can headline a package with Odor in exchange for a starting pitcher that could be considered even a number two, they can potentially set themselves up for success not only now, but beyond 2017, when Yu Darvish is expected to be pitching elsewhere.

And while it might not be all that popular among fans, it's an idea the Rangers should absolutely explore if the right move is on the table.

Projecting the Offseason

Whether we like it or not, the 2016 is over for the Texas Rangers. And as such, rather than wait around on the rest of the postseason to play out, it seemed to be a good time to take a look at the projected payroll situation heading into the winter.

In 2016, the Rangers opened with a payroll of $158 million, and with service-time adjustments as well as in-season trades, the actual payroll ended up being somewhere in the neighborhood of $169 million. Not quite, Yankees-Sox-Dodgers money, but still within top-tier of spenders in Major League Baseball.

Moving forward into 2017, there's been no indication of any sort of willingness to spend more or even stay around that $169 million. In fact, rumblings that Ray Davis would actually like to slice payroll by anywhere from 10-15 percent have perpetuated for the better part of a year. So, more likely than not, you're looking at a soft payroll cap of something closer to $160 million than $170 million.

As far as contractual commitments go, the Rangers have the following in 2017:

Note: I've gone ahead and assumed that Texas will exercise the buyout on Derek Holland's option. Performance combined with health concerns lead me to believe that it's more likely that Texas uses the buyout and attempts to re-negotiate, but more on that later.

That puts Texas at about $112 million, and then you have arbitration salaries. Texas will have the following players arbitration-eligible, followed by their projected earnings according to MLB Trade Rumors:

Chirinos, Scheppers, Griffin, Profar, Jeffress, and Dyson all seem to be locks. That puts us right around $125 million. Then you have the young guys that are making league minimum, which has been $507,500 over the past two seasons. I would expect that to increase a little for 2017, but for the purposes of this exercise, we'll assume it's the same.

Some of these players will end up remaining on the 40-man roster rather than the 25-man, but it puts us at $130.5 million. So now, we're looking at, most likely, $25-30 million in free cash for Texas to play with for the 2017 season.

The first thought that comes to mind is, boy, I don't see any way that Texas manages to re-sign Yu Darvish after the 2017 season. If Darvish pitches anything close to his capability, he's probably going to get paid like many of the upper-tier pitchers have in recent years, which would put him around $25-30 million annually. Maybe more in a year, when the market will be a year removed from one of the weaker classes of free agent pitching in which teams figure to throw money at pitchers that might not otherwise earn that kind of money.

Secondly, with so little available cash to spend, there's not much room to go make a splash. As I've already mentioned, the pitching market this offseason is a bit thin as is, so that's likely a non-issue. However, Texas have several members of their 2016 team hitting free agency in Colby Lewis, Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, and Carlos Gomez.

I'd imagine the Rangers would like Colby Lewis back somewhere close to his 2016 salary of $6 million. Before hitting the disabled list, he was the team's most consistent pitcher, and he's a guy that the Rangers enjoy having around. If you had asked me in July if Ian Desmond would be back, I'd have told you that the Rangers would make a serious push, but I'm not so sure that ship hasn't sailed after he posted a wRC+ of 55 from July 22 to the end of the season. More likely, they'll try to get Carlos Gomez back at somewhere around $10 million for the 2017 season.

That puts Texas at about $146.5 million. Carlos Beltran suddenly becomes a luxury that I'm not sure Texas will be willing to spend for. He made $15 million in 2016, and I'd be surprised if he would take a pay cut to remain in Texas. More likely, someone will offer him about that much on a one-year deal.

I've seen and heard talk about Edwin Encarnacion's impending free agency. I don't see it. He made $10 million in 2016, and with five straight seasons around 4 fWAR, the 33-year old slugger can -- and should -- command more than that on the free agent market. Again, it's more likely that Texas rolls with an internal option at first base and designated hitter. Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo would seem to be perfect candidates. Of course, much of that hinges on Gallo adjusting his approach significantly. It also assumes that some other team forks over too much money for Mitch Moreland rather than the Rangers.

It's also important to remember that Texas has made a concerted effort to sign Rougned Odor to an extension, with his agent reportedly turning down a 6-year, $35 million deal back in July. So Texas clearly wants to get something done on that front as well.

The underlying point I'm making is that rather than being big spenders, it's more likely that Texas will try to plug small holes and give it another run in 2017, the final year of the Yu Darvish window. They may elect to bring Jake Diekman back. Shawn Tolleson? Not out of the realm of possibilities. The bullpen will be an area of significant turnover, and one that cash not already spoken for above will likely go toward. If Texas does manage to land another starting pitcher, it's likely via trade, and it's probably not a big name like those we saw thrown around at this season's trade deadline.

We've heard before that Texas wouldn't be spending, only for them to go out and sign Shin-Soo Choo to a 7-year, $130 million deal. So, yes, it's theoretically possible. Just not probable. And really, I'm fine with that. 2017's Opening Day roster figures to be more talented than the 2016 version, and sometimes, that's all you can realistically ask for.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Coming into this series, I said Toronto was probably the better team. I thought their rotation, overall, was better. Their hitters were patient, but hit the ball hard. The Rangers issued the 2nd-most walks in the American League, and Toronto was a team that forced pitchers to come into the zone.

So if you had told me that in Game 3, the Rangers would have 6 runs and Matt Bush on the mound to preserve a tie, I'd have taken it.

And if you had told me that he wouldn't get strike calls, I'd have believed you, but been disappointed.

Of playoff teams, the Rangers pitching staff had strikes looking above average (SLAA) of -10.29. Easily the worst of all playoff teams, and one of only three teams in the negative -- the other two being the Mets and Orioles, which should surprise no one who actually watched those games.

Meanwhile, the Toronto offense had an SLAA of -12.48, easily the best mark of all playoff teams, and the only team on the "negative" side. If you're following along, -10.29 of that came in three games against Texas.

All the while, the Texas offense had 3.30 SLAA in the series. All told, that's a 15.78 strike advantage for the Blue Jays in a series they needed no help in. 

So no, it wasn't a fairly called series. And really, for a Texas pitching staff that amassed a -108.41 SLAA on the season, I shouldn't have been surprised.

But I'm still dumbfounded. Watching Russel Martin recover from what should have been strike 5, only to ground into a potential double play that ended up getting botched by Rougned Odor... there are no words. Maybe the Germans have one.

I just know these Toronto Blue Jays didn't need help, but they got it every step along the way. It's a damn shame.

Jeff Banister Juggles Lineup for Game 2

With Game 2 looming, Jeff Banister has made some changes to his lineup.

  • Shin-Soo Choo will be on the bench today against the left-handed J.A. Happ, with Nomar Mazara getting the start in right field. Additionally, Mitch Moreland sits in favor of Ryan Rua.
     
  • The Moreland-Rua switch, on the surface, seems to make the most sense, until you realize that Mitch Moreland actually have reverse splits in 2016. He put up a 110 wRC+ against lefties and a 81 wRC+ against righties. Of course, that was in significantly fewer plate appearances -- 100 against 403 -- so it's probably not the type of trend you'd expect to become the norm given Mitch's career trend. Being the playoffs, you roll with a platoon advantage anywhere you think you might have it. As it stands, he put up a wRC+ of 53 over the final two months of the season with an OPS of .589.
     
  • That Mazara is getting the start against the left-hander would seem, to me, to indicate that perhaps Shin-Soo Choo isn't completely ready for face lefties himself, as Mazara's splits on the season leave something to be desired in these situations. His wRC+ is 44 against lefties versus 107 against righties, and only one of his 20 home runs came against a left-handed pitcher.
     
  • Of course, with Yu Darvish going, the hope would be that Texas doesn't need more than a few runs from the offense. To have success against this Toronto lineup, Darvish will need to be able to get ahead with his fastball, thereby allowing him to rely on his entire repertoire to put hitters away. It's mostly fruitless to look at how he has fared against Toronto, as he hasn't faced them since 2014. He's typically pitched well against them in his career, but this is a significantly different lineup than those he's previously faced.
     
  • Other than that, it's mostly the same as yesterday. Just go out and be the better team for today. Simple as that.

The Rangers Trail 1-0

Well, that was less than ideal. Some thoughts:

  • Cole Hamels just wasn't very good today. His final line of 7 runs (6 earned) on 6 hits and 3 walks doesn't quite do it justice. He didn't appear to be comfortable on the mound, and there were moments that I noticed he was taking additional time between pitches to try to gather something inside himself.
     
  • Walks aside, Cole's biggest problem was an inability to put hitters away. He lacked any sort of strikeout pitch, with a high likelihood that it was related to his poor fastball command. There wasn't a sense that Cole had a feel for placing the ball where he wanted it, and the end result was often that he'd get two strike on hitters, only for them to be able to sit on a pitch over the heart of the zone.
     
  • The offense and defense didn't do much to help today, either. Ian Desmond, in particular, had what was a back-breaking play that he should have made in center field on what was ruled a bases-clearing triple by Troy Tulowitzki. The ball was hit deep, but not so deep that the wall should have come into play. Desmond simply... lost it somehow. And instead of being down 2-0 with the inning over and the Rangers still within striking distance, it was 5-0, and the life just left the entire ballpark.
     
  • And really, I have to imagine that the early deficit had an effect on the offensive approach. For his part, prior to having a cushioned lead, Marco Estrada was already having success in throwing first pitch strikes and inducing swings on his changeup. Being down certainly didn't aid Texas in attempting to adjust, and other than two Elvis Andrus hits and an Adrian Beltre infield single -- one in which Estrada himself should have been covering first for the out -- the offense didn't really get much going.
     
  • Jumping back to Cole Hamels for a moment: He didn't seem to be following through on his delivery today -- whether that's because he just wasn't or couldn't remains to be seen -- which had me thinking aloud that he might be hurt. Of course, we're not going to hear much about it now, but recent trends would seem to back that up. Momentum -- or lack thereof -- don't generally have much to do with postseason success or failure. In Hamels's case, I almost wonder if the writing hasn't been on the wall. As you may remember, Colby Lewis required knee surgery after the 2015 season. It wouldn't surprise me too much to find out something similar about Cole Hamels, and it would go a long way toward explaining his erratic and often downward-trending starts as of late. From August 30 to the end of the season, he put up an ERA of 6.75, so today's start wasn't exactly an outlier when looking at recent trends.
     
  • The assumption had long been that starting Cole in Game 1 would allow Texas to use him again on short rest in Game 4 if necessary. Of course, we know now that for Texas to win this series, Game 4 will be necessary. The idea had been that you'd want to avoid pushing Darvish to start on short rest in Game 4, but with a travel day, Darvish could still go on regular rest for Game 5. I'm not so sure at this point that you don't go ahead and pitch Martin Perez and take what you get. Something just isn't right with Cole Hamels. Perhaps it's an issue that comes and goes, but today it came.
     
  • All told, today's events were what worried me heading into this series, and why I was surprised the Rangers didn't end up electing to use the 8-man bullpen. With starts from Colby Lewis, Martin Perez, and after what we saw from Hamels today, it would seem beneficial to have as many arms available as possible. It's too late now, but it was a thought I had when rosters were announced this morning, and it's one that's probably going to bother me to the end of this thing.
     
  • About Ian Desmond. He has to make that catch in center field. Barring that, I'm just not sure he merits a starting spot in a playoff series. He hit one ball somewhat hard today, but since July 22, hasn't hit much more than a pinata. It wouldn't be a popular move, but I still wonder if having Mazara in LF, Gomez in CF, and Choo/Beltran in RF isn't the best combination. Sure, you lose some speed on the bases and a little bit of range on the left side of the outfield, but even as poorly as Nomar Mazara has hit, his bat has been leaps and bounds better than Desmond's over recent stretches. It won't happen, but it's something that should at least be considered.
     
  • All told, the Rangers need Yu Darvish to go out tomorrow and light it up. And for the bats to, hopefully, show better plate discipline, and therefore results. Should Texas lose Game 2, that's an awfully tough hill to climb, and one I'd rather not have to face.