Texas Rangers: The fine line between protecting a player and helping the team
By Travis Koch
Protect Rougned Odor and hurt the lineup or remove him and improve the lineup. The Texas Rangers are facing a difficult and confusing decision.
If only players could live up to expectations every year. Everyone would be happy, the team would be playing awesome and I wouldn’t be writing an article questioning an individual that I idolize. However, baseball is played by humans, and humans deal with adversity, both physical and mental. One Texas Rangers player is facing great adversity right now, putting the team in an awkward position.
Rougned Odor has looked helpless in the batter’s box this season. He’s hitting .137 with a .212 OBP and a .464 OPS. He’s also struck out in 42% of his at-bats. Odor has played a fine second base, but the Rangers had much bigger ideas when they signed him to a 6-year/$49.5 million contract in 2017.
His terrible start would be viewed differently if it was isolated. But this is one of a handful of times the 25-year-old has experienced a colossal slump in his six-year big league career. Many fans are losing patience; however, the Rangers continue to play him everyday despite his baffling inconsistencies.
Why do they continue to play him?
For one, they invested a lot of money in him. Anyone who’s followed sports for the majority of their life understands that money plays. It’s that simple. Texas greatly prefers that their $50 million man be on the field in a big league uniform. He’s still embarrassing the Rangers’ pocket books, but it would be more embarrassing if he wasn’t playing for them at all.
They also want to avoid expressing little confidence in Odor. Benching him or sending him to the minor leagues could bury him. Keeping him the big league lineup is at least giving him a chance to swing in a favorable direction. He’s played in all 13 games since returning from the IL. In those 13 games he went 6-for-53, equating to a .113 batting average.
Odor has taken away at-bats from Danny Santana, who was playing outstanding when Odor was injured. Santana is currently a tougher out, yet Odor continues to get all the playing time for the reasons that were just mentioned. The Texas Rangers are choosing to protect Odor, full well knowing that Santana will make the lineup stronger.
Is that the best approach to take?
I’m not going to say the Rangers are wrong in the way they’re handling the Rougned Odor situation. Frankly, it’s probably the right play. He’s young and he’s talented. When he is on track Texas is a better team. The problem is he is off track as often as he is on.
I’m not with the team, but I’d imagine Odor’s shortcomings are more so the fault of his own rather than the fault of the coaching staff. For whatever reason, he can’t maintain the positive adjustments that he makes. He started off last year very poorly as well, though he eventually found a way to turn things around. He played well in spring training this year, but has had an awful April and May.
What are the Rangers supposed to do? Not having any faint clue of how a player is going to perform year-to-year must be a real pain for an organization — especially for one that owes the player a good amount of money.
You could argue that playing him every game is actually hurting him. Odor certainly realizes how unproductive he has been at the plate; he must see how that is affecting the lineup. And when the lineup is on a roll, he’s generally been one of the guys not contributing. That can’t be easy on his mind either.
There is point when things get too bad. That point is nearing for the Texas second baseman. He was demoted back in 2015 after a rough start. He returned a month later with 108 minor league ABs under his belt and turned in a solid major league campaign.
That was his 2nd season with the Rangers, so growing pains were expected. Sending him down in his 6th season would be a great disappointment, but it’s likely the wise move. Odor would hopefully fulfill the clichés of clearing his head and slowing things down. That may be the Texas Rangers’ only hope.
In the meantime, they’ll hope he can experience an upswing in the everyday lineup. The clock is ticking, however. Texas will be forced to do something drastic if he continues on this rocky path.