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Orioles sign guy who punched Jose Bautista that one time

Rougned Odor hasn’t been good in three years, which means he stinks just enough to play for the Orioles. They also made some arbitration decisions on Tuesday.

Rangers beat Blue Jays 7-6
Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

What’s the value of having a player for the 2022 season whose biggest career accomplishment is that one time five years ago he punched Birdland villain Jose Bautista and that was kind of funny? The Orioles have arrived at this answer: The MLB minimum salary. That’s what it will cost to employ Rougned Odor, since contract machinations mean it’s the Rangers who will owe the bulk of the $12.3 million Odor would have earned in the final year of a six-year, $49.5 million contract he signed before the 2017 season.

The Athletic’s Dan Connolly broke the news that the Orioles were nearing a deal with Odor on Monday evening while fans were sitting around waiting to see which arbitration-eligible Orioles would and wouldn’t be tendered 2022 contracts.

Why Odor? It takes a lot of squinting to try to figure it out. The 27-year-old has batted a combined .199/.274/.415 over the past three seasons. He’s struck out in 29.8% of his plate appearances. The benefit the teams that have employed him have gotten is that he’s hit a home run in every 17.8 at-bats. This is not actually much of a benefit.

Why add a second baseman who can’t hit into the mix? You have to reach back to the 2016 season to find a year in which Odor was an above-average hitter by either OPS+ or wRC+.

The joke-y answer is that Odor sucks enough to fit right in to the 2022 Orioles. This team just lost 110 games and had an offense with just a combined .705 OPS for many reasons, one of which is that they didn’t have good players. Here is another player who is not good.

The actual answer is probably that the Orioles hope they can do something to re-awaken Odor’s power and make him an attractive trade target to fetch a marginal prospect at midseason. I have no expectation that this will occur. I can’t imagine the Orioles do either. The novelty of having the guy who punched Bautista on the team will wear off quickly, perhaps even before the end of spring training.

In other Tuesday roster maneuvering, the Orioles cleared two 40-man roster spots earlier in the day. Reliever Brooks Kriske was given his release by the team, for the purpose of allowing him to pursue an international contract. Infielder Lucius Fox, who’s been on the O’s roster for all of 11 days after being claimed by the Royals on waivers, was waived by the O’s in turn and claimed by the Nationals.

The O’s also agreed to 2022 contracts with two of their six arbitration-eligible players, handing out contracts to Anthony Santander ($3.15 million; had been projected for $3.7 million by MLBTR) and Jorge Lopez ($1.5 million, as projected).

That left four players heading to the 8pm deadline: John Means, Trey Mancini, Tanner Scott, and Paul Fry. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that the Orioles are tendering contracts to Means, Mancini, and Scott. Means is projected to make $3.1 million, Mancini $7.9 million, and Scott an even $1 million.

Kubatko added that the team and Fry agreed on an $850,000 contract for 2022. Fry had been projected at $1.1 million, but seems to have taken a discount to stave off being non-tendered after stinking significantly in 2021. Although some homerist elements of mainstream Orioles media really wanted Fry to have trade value in July, teams were not blind to how bad Fry was, particularly with command, once the calendar turned to June.

These players being tendered a contract does not preclude a trade from happening later, possibly even tomorrow. Mike Elias struck in trading both Jose Iglesias and Jonathan Villar in consecutive offseasons on December 2. However, the looming MLB-imposed lockout on Thursday will give this offseason a different flavor, whenever it resumes.