The Texas Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild after the best 10 year stretch of baseball ever played in Arlington.
Between 2010 and 2020 they made the playoffs 5 times and went to the World Series twice. There is no dispute that the last four years have not been good. Most look to the 2017 year as the start of the decline.
There have even been suggestions that a complete teardown was warranted after the 2016 season, in which they won the West and were eliminated by the Blue Jays in the ALDS.
What if the real reason the team started it’s decline, happened during spring training of the 2014 season? The spring when Jurickson Profar injured his shoulder.
First, you have to go back to November of 2013. The Rangers had missed the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. They finished second in the AL West and were eliminated in a one-game tiebreaker against the Rays for the wildcard. The Rangers had already traded Michael Young after the 2012 season, in an effort to get younger. Mitch Moreland had been inconsistent at first base in 2013. The Rangers needed a spot for the #1 prospect in all of baseball, Jurickson Profar.
The Rangers approached Ian Kinsler about a possible move to first base so that Profar could play second. Kinsler balked at this idea and was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder and some cash. This opened the door for an infield of Adrian Beltre at third, Elvis Andrus at SS, Profar at second, and Fielder at first. Plus the lineup had added another power bat in Fielder, to replace Josh Hamilton who had departed for the Angels in 2013. That leads to spring training of 2014.
In the spring of 2014, Jurickson Profar came to surprise as the starting second baseman on the depth chart. But he showed up with a shoulder issue. It turned out to be a torn labrum that would cost him two full years. That is what opened the door to Rougned Odor. At first, the Rangers tried to avoid bringing up the 20-year-old Odor.
They started the season with Jeff Wilson and then used Donnie Murphy. Odor was eventually called up and ended up playing 114 games. As a 20-year-old he hit .259 with 9 HRs and a .698 OPS. Not actually that bad for a rookie. Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler was hitting .275 with 15 HRs and a .727 OPS for Detroit.
To add insult to injury, Fielder was hit .247 with only 3 HRs in only 47 games after a stiff neck kept out of the lineup. Odor ended up having relatively good 2015 and 2016 seasons. He hit .261 and .271 with an OPS around .790 and 49 combined HRs in those two seasons. That lead to the contract extension, two horses, and a lot of ticked off Ranger fans in 2020. Odor has failed to produce at the level he did those first three seasons. That begs the question, what would have happened if Profar hadn’t got hurt.
If Jurickson Profar hadn’t got hurt, I think the Rangers lineup is drastically different than it is right now. The only season Profar got to play a full season with the Rangers was 2018. He hit .254 with 20 HRs and an OPS of .793. All of this while playing outfield and third base. It reasons to think that had he played in 2014, he might have put up numbers similar if not better than Odor. That would have secured his spot as the everyday second baseman and Odor would most likely not be here.
Sure Odor could have played outfield which some are suggesting for 2021 if he isn’t moved. However, he might have been included in the deal that landed the Rangers Cole Hamels.
What if the Phillies took Odor instead of Nick Williams or Jerad Eickhoff? What if Odor had headlined another deal?
It’s real easy to second guess after the fact. But let us ask the questions. What if the Rangers had Profar in the 5th year of a 7 year contract right now? Yips aside in 2019, Profar has proven to be the better player. Had he not been injured, might he have had the confidence to produce year in and year out at a major league level? After all, he was the best prospect in all of baseball. Would he not have been a better trade piece than Odor is now? (If the rebuild were in place anyway) Would Jerad Eickhoff have made the Rangers rotation as he did in Philly? (Were he not in the deal for Hamels) What if Kinsler had decided to move to first or the outfield and the Fielder trade never happened?
The point is that there are a lot of what-ifs when it comes to Jurickson Profar and the 2014 shoulder injury. But let’s look at 2020 and see who the Rangers would have rather had. Profar played for San Diego. He is 27 and hit .278 in 56 games with an OPS of .771 and 7 HRs.
Odor is 26, he hit .167 in 38 games with a .623 OPS. He did hit 10 HRs and looked like he was figuring it out “again”, in the last month. (Sure sound familiar)
The point of all of this: What would the Texas Rangers look like heading into the 2021 offseason?
It may be a whole different story.
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