Texas Rangers: Implications of Signing Free Agent Derek Dietrich

Texas Rangers sign free agent Derek Dietrich to minor league contract (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Texas Rangers sign free agent Derek Dietrich to minor league contract (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Texas Rangers announced on Monday that they have signed Derek Dietrich to a minor league contract. Are there any implications from this signing?

On Monday the Texas Rangers announced that they had signed free agent infielder Derek Dietrich to a minor league contract and assigned him to their alternate training site. Dietrich had been released by the Chicago Cubs this past weekend after signing with the team in late July. As a pickup with recent big league experience, some of it rather successful, Rangers’ fans have already voiced questions over the signing and what it could mean for the current format of the big league team.

Dietrich as a whole, has average big league numbers with a career .246 average and .761 OPS. He gained some notoriety last year though with the Reds after joining the team as a minor league free agent and jumping out to a fast start. From the beginning of the year until the end of May, Dietrich hit .260 in 145 plate appearances with 17 home runs and 34 RBIs. His 1.073 OPS in that time was fifth in the league among players with 100 or more plate appearances. However, he dropped off drastically from that point and from June 1 to the end of the season, Dietrich hit just .117 and tacked on only two more home runs. That drop-off meant the shine of a possible diamond in the rough had worn off and Dietrich once again found himself looking for a club over the course of the offseason.

Still, the signing of Dietrich is an interesting one if for nothing then the fact that it comes just days after a string of interview answers by Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward signaling that Rougned Odor was running out of time to get his bat going. As a player with big league pedigree, his signing always will carry a little extra weight.

No surprise, it was the focus of a few questions from local media on Monday prior to the Rangers schedule series against the Seattle Mariners. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported via Twitter that Daniels noted Dietrich’s ability to play second base among other positions and noted the importance of competition with regards to Odor’s spot specifically.

Chris Halicke of SI.com noted a three-point description from Daniels on why the club signed Dietrich.

The elephant in the room though is no doubt whether Dietrich was brought in to potentially take over second base from Rougned Odor who is off to a rough 4-35 start to the season. Odor’s struggles have been well documented and in 2019, it was perhaps the most contentious point surrounding the Rangers. The 26-year old has shown top notch ability, especially in his first few seasons in the league, which landed him a six-year, $49.5 million contract from Texas. Since though, his form has been up and down with a lot more down than up.

Where I question the hypothesis that Dietrich has been brought in as a potential replacement for Odor is the fact that Dietrich doesn’t strike me as an upgrade on Odor at this point. If not for his blistering start to last season, one that was notably unsustainable when you consider his .195 BABIP in that two month stretch to open the season, he was objectively poor the remainder of the season. His strikeout rate in that time jumped up nearly 10 percent and was approaching that of Oodr’s and his run production became almost nonexistent. While he might could provide some competition, it seems like a stretch to think he’s been brought in to become an everyday second baseman for the Rangers.

For the time being as well, Dietrich is also not on the 40-man roster which is already full so the Rangers would have to make a corresponding move to get him up to the big leagues. The benefit of Dietrich is that he is defensively versatile with the ability to play throughout the infield, save shortstop, and experience in left field as well. The more likely scenario from this signing is not that Texas has eyes on replacing Odor, at least not with him, but rather that Texas wanted to shore up its infield depth.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has emerged as an everyday player and the club’s starting third baseman meaning the Rangers don’t currently have a real utility infielder. With Danny Santana’s injury, their most versatile player is out of the lineup and Texas is reliant on Nick Solak to help on the right side of the infield and rookie Anderson Tejeda as the coverage on the left side. Dietrich helps solve that issue if the need arises by offering a veteran who can hold his own around the diamond.

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