In early April, the Yankees traded for Rangers infielder Rougned Odor in a deal that saw Texas absorb nearly all of the $27 million still owed to Odor as part of the six-year contract extension he signed with the club in 2017. Despite being a gratis addition to the roster, the trade didn’t make a ton of sense at the time. The Yankees already had two second basemen in Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu; there was no need for a third.
Moreover, as a free-swinging and undisciplined power hitter, Odor’s offensive tools seemed redundant. The Yankees’ 2021 lineup was already made up of big boppers who strike out too much. That said, Odor did add a lefty bat to the Yankees’ righty-heavy lineup, and he also brought energy, above-average defense, veteran leadership, and a little mojo to a team that looked flat and lifeless throughout the spring. Nonetheless, Brian Cashman’s decision to acquire Odor puzzled fans who didn’t understand the logic of the move.
2021 Statistics: 102 G, 361 PA, .202/.286/.379, 15 HR, 7.5 BB%, 27.7 K%, 83 wRC+, 9 OAA, 0.6 fWAR
2022 Contract Status: Likely free agency following 11/19 DFA
Acquiring Odor, a talented, but historically streaky hitter who was designated for assignment by Texas, was a low-risk, high-upside depth move that cost the Yankees nothing, financially speaking. The only problem? Odor didn’t fulfill any of the Yankees’ unmet needs. As a second baseman, his joining the team further confused a disjointed infield made up of guys who often manned a position they didn’t typically play (Odor even saw some action at third base for the first time in his MLB career this season).
Odor is who he has been since making his debut in 2014. He is a flawed hitter. There are a lot of holes in his swing. He didn’t dramatically impress anyone with his play and his numbers on the season were decidedly mediocre. Nonetheless, he did come through for the Yanks in a number of big moments this year.
New York got off to a slow start in 2021, but Odor made a solid first impression. The team’s first three-game winning streak came against Cleveland in late April, and Odor played a big role in all three wins by collecting go-ahead hits and game-tying homers. Later on, in July, he put together a month-long hot streak and provided the bulk of the Yankees’ offense during an important series against the Red Sox. Over the course of the season, he lived up to his reputation of failing to produce at the plate consistently. But, just when it seemed as if he wouldn’t stop swing at ball in the other batter’s box, he would come through with a big hit. He rose to the occasion just often enough to serve as a kind of crazy-making intermittent reinforcement.
Baseball fans—and Yankees fans specifically—love creating narratives. The importance of Odor’s intangible qualities is up for debate (personally, I am a Rougie-as-cheerleader and Rougie-as-mound-visit-coach enthusiast), but no one can say the dude is boring. Shortly after Odor arrived in the Bronx, former Yankees backup catcher Erik Kratz may have lent credence to the theory of Odor solving the supposed “culture” problems in the Yankees clubhouse when he tweeted about Odor’s spirited personality:
Are the @Yankees too professional? Maybe @RougnedOdor gives them the swag they need outwardly. He brings a dynamic that combined with the other talent already on the roster could make them lethal, even if statistically he doesn’t play well— Erik Kratz (@ErikKratz31) April 24, 2021
Can a knack for building rapport and camaraderie make up for subpar offensive statistics? That’s impossible to quantify. Rougie definitely brought a presence in the true sense of the word to the Yankees in 2021. He managed to be in every camera shot, he was first out of the dugout to congratulate teammates with celebratory high fives, and his love of hyping up the team was obvious.
It’s noteworthy that Odor has another year with the Yanks, so we will likely see him again in 2022, especially since the Yankees’ front office seems to love not having to pay a CBT tax on his roster spot. Right now, it looks as if his role could be that of a utility guy/defensive replacement/bench piece. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he will be an everyday starter. If nothing else, I’ll be excited to witness his antics again when spring training rolls around.
Today, the Yankees have made the following roster moves:— New York Yankees (@Yankees) November 19, 2021
•Added INF Oswaldo Cabrera, RHP Ron Marinaccio, OF Everson Pereira, RHP Stephen Ridings and LHP JP Sears to the Major League roster.
•Designated OF Clint Frazier, INF Rougned Odor and INF Tyler Wade for assignment.
Never mind that last sentence. Odor’s probably played his last game in pinstripes, as he was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft.