Contract negotiations are rarely easy, and the one between the Texas Rangers and Rougned Odor was no different.
They had reached another impasse, with ample guaranteed money at stake over a number of years but not so many that Odor couldn’t become a free agent while still in his prime years.
What finally broke the stalemate, and what might be what epitomizes that Odor belongs in Texas, was a pair of quarterhorses thrown into the deal.
The stroke of negotiating genius, with owner Ray Davis playing on Odor’s weakness for horses, was revealed Thursday as the Rangers announced that Odor had signed a six-year contract worth $49.5 million that could grow to seven years, $60 million if the Rangers exercise a club option.
The deal is a win for both sides. The Rangers bought out Odor’s three arbitration years and his first two years of free agency at a club-friendly rate, and Odor gets nearly $50 million guaranteed and the chance to become a free agent at age 29.
No one is complaining.
“He’s 23 years old and already one of the best middle infielders in the game,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “The sky’s the limit for what Roogie’s capable of both on and off the field.”
Odor received a $2 million signing bonus and a $1 million deal for 2017 that wipes out the one he signed in February as a pre-arb player. The Rangers will pay him $3 million next season, $7.5 million in 2019; $9 million in 2020; $12 million in 2021 and 2022; and a $3 million buyout if they don’t exercise a $13.5 million club option for 2023.
He gets his new deal after launching 33 homers and 33 doubles last season while batting .271 with 88 RBIs. He’s not a finished product, with the Rangers wanting to see more consistent defense and more, but not too much more, discipline at the plate.
Odor, who turned 23 on Feb. 3, said that the money and his early success won’t go to his head.
“I don’t think about me too much. I always think about my teammates,” he said. “I just go out there and play with my heart. I always try to do the best that I can that day and try to help my team win as many games as I can.”
It’s been a good return for the Rangers on the $425,000 they used to sign Odor in 2011 out of Venezuela when he was 16.
They watched him break into the major leagues in 2014 as a 20-year-old and watched him struggle in 2015, to the point that he was demoted to Triple A Round Rock. But they also witnessed him respond to the coaching and return to the majors later that season.
He hasn’t looked back.
“This is a true success story from that standpoint,” Daniels said. “We’re talking about a young man we’ve know since he was 16 years old. It’s a really fun one for us.”
Odor’s deal expires the same year as the eight-year contract of shortstop Elvis Andrus, so the middle field could be together into the next decade. Andrus, also from Venezuela, wrapped his arms around Odor in 2014 and has been a friend and confidant in the years since.
“He’s always trying to help me and talk to me during and after the games,” Odor said. “He’s a great guy, and I love getting to play with him for more years.”
Odor is planning to move his parents and younger sister from Venezuela to a ranch somewhere near the Metroplex. Odor counts horses as one of his hobbies, with seven of them in Venezuela, and now two waiting for him in Texas.
The horses were a perfect finishing touch to the deal — with Odor calling horses his passion — but he spoke passionately about the opportunity to be with his family more.
“I always wanted to bring my family here,” he said. “They love Texas. They love being around here. It’s good for everyone to be around his family. It’s a little hard when we’re playing here and your family is in another country.”
That’s another way the deal is a win for both Odor and the Rangers.