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Will Rougned Odor be the next successful Yankees reclamation project?

The feisty second baseman has been an offensive black hole for four years, but the Yankees have a recent history of transforming marginal bats into fearsome weapons.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

When news broke on Tuesday that the Yankees had acquired Rougned Odor from the Rangers, I was a bit bemused to say the least. Why in the world would the Yankees give up two prospects for someone with a near-complete lack of hitting ability and $27 million left on his contract? As more details about the transaction began to trickle in, the trade started to make at least a modicum of sense.

My colleague Ryan Pavich detailed the different ways that Odor can benefit the club. He has the potential to be a depth upgrade over Tyler Wade, his recent reps at third base give him some defensive versatility, and as always, people will connect the dots between a lefty power bat and the short porch in Yankee Stadium. And because the Rangers will eat much of the money remaining on the deal, this is essentially a zero-risk acquisition in exchange for two lower-level minor leaguers who likely would never play in The Show for the Yankees. At the very least, it’s worth considering if the Yankees can help Odor recapture the power that precipitated his six-year extension with the Rangers.

Normally, I would say that Odor was beyond help after a quick glance at his precipitous offensive decline. However, this is the same batting department that unlocked the potential in the bats of Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, and Mike Tauchman. If any team has a track record of turning borderline hitters into legitimate sluggers, it’s the Yankees, so let’s look at the aspects of Odor’s game that provide promise for the future, as well as the parts that bode ominous.

The Good

Even though Odor’s overall offensive contributions over the last four years could be classified as abysmal (74 wRC+), there are three metrics during that timeline that give hope. His 12.7-percent barrel rate between 2019 and 2020 is roughly double the league average, and shows that when he does make contact, he manages to match up exit velocity and launch angle with regularity.

In 2020, Odor’s BABIP stood at .157, the third-worst mark in the league. That is unsustainably low and is due for some positive regression this year, indicating he was the victim of some particularly cruel luck in the shortened season

Although Odor is known for his criminally low on-base percentage, he did manage to draw eight and nine-percent walk rates in 2018 and 2019. I’m confident that the Yankees will live with a walk rate in that neighborhood, provided they can bring down the strikeouts a touch from the 31.7 percent clip over the last two seasons

The Bad

While Odor’s barrel rate is encouraging, his other batted ball metrics aren’t as rosy. His average exit velocity and hard-hit rates took nosedives in 2020, losing 5 mph and 13 points respectively. That is particularly worrying, given that the league has deadened the baseball for at least this season.

Returning to his OBP, it sits at a putrid .289 on his career. As Josh put it, he is pathologically opposed to getting on base. If Yankees fans thought Wade was bad at getting on base, I’ve got some bad news about Odor: his OBP is so bad that despite hitting at least 30 home runs in 2017 and 2019, his overall offense still sat well-below league average. That’s an achievement in all the wrong ways.

So what’s the verdict,? Can the Yankees save him? To be honest, I don’t know. The silver lining to his declining exit velocity is that Urshela and Tauchman added five and seven mph respectively after joining the Yankees, so he is not beyond repair in that regard.

On the other hand, the dismal OBP hard-caps his offensive value, and it would take a complete buy-in to the Yankees’ “control the zone” philosophy to make it a bit more palatable — that’s what Aaron Boone is hoping will happen, anyway. I’m intrigued to see if the Yankees can work their magic one more time.