Last season the Texas Rangers finished with the best record in the American League. The Cleveland Indians represented the AL in the World Series, and pushed the Cubs to extra-innings in Game 7.
As the calendar turns to 2017, both teams have their sights set on contending for the American League title. And both just signed key pieces of their franchises to long term deals. The Rangers locked up fiery second-baseman Rougned Odor, while the Indians resigned infielder and clutch-hitter Jose Ramirez to a multi-year contract.
Here’s what you need to know:
ROUGNED ODOR, TEXAS RANGERS 2B
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports first reported the six-year, $49.5 million deal Saturday morning. The contract also includes a seventh-year option. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News was the first to report that the two sides were close to an agreement.
Odor’s new contract draws comparisons to those of both 2B Jason Kipnis and CF Kevin Kiermaier. Kipnis signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract in 2014. He and Odor posted similar numbers over their first three seasons. Kiermaier has played almost the exact same number of games as Odor, and though they play different positions Kiermaier’s contract (six-years, $53.5 million) is comparable to Odor’s, including the club-options at the back end.
What are the Rangers getting in Odor?
Odor is one of the top power-hitting second basemen in the league. Last year he posted a .271 average — a career high — along with 33 home runs and a .502 slugging percentage. Odor provided the Rangers with 2.0 WAR in 2016, according to FanGraphs. Along with the spike in power came a drop in plate discipline. In 2016 Odor swung at over 50% of pitches, and saw his walk rate drop to 3.0% and his strikeout rate jumped to 21.4%.
Despite the decreasing plate discipline, Odor has improved his offense each season he’s been with the Rangers. He looks set to continue to improve, especially with his mind at ease now that his contract is all but finalized. Odor should continue to be near the top of the leaderboard among second basemen in most offensive categories.
Plus, if there’s ever a benches-clearing brawl in Texas, Odor knows how to throw a punch:
What does this deal mean for Texas?
The Ranger’s team really has two cores. On the older side are the wily veterans like 3B Adrian Beltre, SS Elvis Andrus, and LHP Cole Hamels, guys who are in all likelihood on their final contracts. On the other end of the spectrum is the Rangers’ team of the future, including Odor, RF Nomar Mazara, and utilityman Jurickson Profar. Ace RHP Yu Darvish slots somewhere in between the two extremes.
By resigning Odor, the Rangers are beginning the important process of maintaining their young core. Odor will man the keystone for the Rangers for at least the next six years, and according to Ken Rosenthal Texas is also in negotiations to extend Mazara. Their other young star, Profar, is playing on a one-year, $1-million contract this season. His situation is a bit more tenuous, as his natural position is currently blocked by Andrus, and he only managed a disappointing .239/.321/.338 slash line last season.
JOSE RAMIREZ, CLEVELAND INDIANS 2B/3B
The Cleveland Indians announced the Ramirez deal today as a 5-year agreement with club options for both 2022 and 2023. It is a 5-year deal because the Indians are overriding his assigned salary for the 2017 season and giving him a small raise for this season. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports broke the deal and reported that the contract guaranteed him $26MM. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the yearly earnings for Ramirez. He will receive a $2MM signing bonus and an updated $571.4K salary for the 2017 season, slightly above the league minimum. He will receive $2.4MM in 2018, $3.75MM in 2019, $6.25MM in 2020, and $9MM in 2021. There is a $2MM buyout on his $11MM club option for 2022 and no buyout on his 2023 club option worth $13MM. It terms of comparisons, if both options are picked up, the $50MM contract is nearly identical to the Rougned Odor deal.
What are the Indians getting in Ramirez?
With Ramirez, the Indians are getting a guy that can play an above average 2B, SS, 3B, and LF. Last year, Ramirez had a breakout season, finishing with a .312 average, 11 home runs, 76 RBIs, and stole 22 bases. Jose provided a 1.7 WAR according to Baseball Reference. Ramirez does not strike out (only 62 for the entire season) and can get on base via the walk as well (44 in 2016).
The real answer to what the Indians are getting will be answered this season. Last season was his breakout season, playing almost the same number of games in 2016 as he did in 2014 and 2015 combined. Ramirez is projected to be batting behind Edwin Encarnacion, which means that he will be the player that pitchers will likely try and attack to avoid Encarnacion. How closely he can replicate his 2016 numbers will help the team assess if they over-payed or got a steal.
What does this deal mean for Cleveland?
The Indians see this as their window of opportunity to win a championship. Ownership has shelled out big money to tie up its core players for the foreseeable future and bring cost certainty to a payroll that is the largest in franchise history. The Indians have 20 players from their 25 man roster under control through at least 2018.
Cleveland is not only locking up their core, but they are retaining players that are buying into playing for the organization:
Overall, this deal means that Cleveland Indians baseball is back in a big way for the first time since their playoff run in the 1990s. The question is not a matter of if they will make it to the playoffs, its whether can they bring home the city’s first World Series Trophy since 1948.
The next six years will decide which of these contracts won the day. The question will in all likelihood by answered by Commissioner’s Trophies.