Where would you hit Rougned Odor in the Cubs' lineup? It's a rhetorical question, sure -- but just barely.Odor was a person of significant interest to the Cubs during his early years in the Rangers' farm system. He was targeted by Theo Epstein, who was in frequent conversation with Jon
Where would you hit Rougned Odor in the Cubs' lineup? It's a rhetorical question, sure -- but just barely.
Odor was a person of significant interest to the Cubs during his early years in the Rangers' farm system. He was targeted by Theo Epstein, who was in frequent conversation with Jon Daniels in 2012 and '13.
This was the period when the rebuilding Cubs made Deadline deals with the going-for-it Rangers in consecutive years. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza were the pieces who brought the Cubs six prospects -- most notably Kyle Hendricks, Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards
Odor was always the guy the Rangers wouldn't give up, which is worth remembering as he signs a six-year, $49.5 million contract extension.
Odor has become the guy who will take over for Adrian Beltre and middle-infield partner Elvis Andrus, a cornerstone piece of future contenders at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The second baseman was almost another cog in a lineup that includes Anthony Rizzo, Kristopher Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, although you can only speculate how Odor's presence would have impacted Epstein's decision-making after the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2013.
There was never any question about Odor's talent, especially his ability to swing the bat. He was the nephew of Rouglas Odor, a hitting coach in the Indians' system, and signed for $425,000 as a 17-year-old in 2011. Texas was aggressive in sending him to the Northwest League that summer and the South Atlantic League in '12, and he responded.
But the Cubs and other teams knew two things about the Rangers: They were committed to getting back to the World Series after losing to the Giants in 2010 and the Cardinals in '11, and they had accumulated a wealth of infield prospects.
While Odor was becoming a known commodity, perennial All-Star Ian Kinsler was locked in as the second baseman, and Odor entered 2013 with less buzz than fellow Texas infielders Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo, Mike Olt and Luis Sardinas.
It wasn't outrageous to ask for Odor when Daniels sent scouts to check out all of Garza's midseason starts (and even a bullpen session at Wrigley Field).
There was a split among Rangers' decision makers about who to include -- the 21-year-old Edwards, who, despite his rail-thin physique, was blowing away hitters in the low Minors, or Odor. In the end, Daniels made the call. He'd part with Edwards but not Odor.
Epstein did the deal for Edwards, Grimm, Olt and Neil Ramirez. It's worked out just fine for the Cubs, even without Odor. Edwards and Grimm have become bullpen staples for the drought-breaking Cubs, with Edwards entrusted to start the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series last November.
Daniels traded Kinsler to the Tigers for Prince Fielder after 2013, and Odor jumped to the big leagues as a 20-year-old the following May. He's best known for punching Jose Bautista in the face last May, but it was Odor's 33-homer season as a 22-year-old that signaled his emergence as a difference maker and future All-Star.
Odor is not a finished product, and everyone should understand that. He's 23 and was hurried to the Major Leagues, playing only 92 games above Class A. Hitting coaches Anthony Iapoce and Justin Mashore need to help the young slugger harness his aggressiveness.
Odor struck out 135 times last year and walked only 19 times. The only players with fewer walks after 500-plus plate appearances last season were Brandon Phillips and Josh Harrison, and they had better ratios than Odor, who walked once every 33 plate appearances.
Odor hit .271 with a .502 slugging percentage but had only a 105 OPS+, meaning he contributed only five percent more than the average hitter. The thing to keep in mind is he's just getting started.
Thanks to Daniels' faith in Odor -- which was expressed both when the Cubs sought him and in the new contract -- the Rangers can enjoy watching him get better and better.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.