The Texas Rangers are in a fortunate, yet precarious, situation where the club has seemingly incredible depth at shortstop with All-Star Elvis Andrus, super prospect Jurickson Profar, and even the up and coming Leury Garcia.
Andrus has been a superb player the first four years of his major league career, producing an fWAR of 13.9. His numbers at the plate have been rather ordinary, but Andrus’ defensive prowess makes him a valuable player who will more than likely be rewarded with a lucrative contract by some team when he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2014 season.
Andrus is represented by the baseball antichrist, agent Scott Boras, and Boras’ clients rarely sign extensions with their current teams before becoming free agents. The notable Boras exceptions who signed team-friendly were Andruw Jones, Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez. If Andrus would like to stay with the Rangers, he would have to sign a reasonably similar extension.
Andrus was interviewed on ESPN radio’s Ben & Skin program last week and seemed to imply he will test free agency after the ’14 season. Andrus has been the subject of numerous trade rumors during the offseason, but Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has insisted the club is not interested in trading the 24-year-old shortstop at the moment.
Profar is the number-one ranked prospect in all of baseball right now, and many feel he is now prepared to play every day at the major league level. Profar plays shortstop, and would be the logical replacement for Andrus if he were to be traded. Profar is under club control for six more seasons, and ESPN baseball guru Keith Law recently stated he would not consider trading Profar for three years of phenomenal Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price.
A polarizing issue among the Rangers fans: What should the organization do with Andrus based on his upcoming free agency? The club has a talented, potential superstar waiting in the wings to replace Andrus in Profar, but should the organization trade an established star at a premium position based solely on the fact the team is afraid he will bolt after the ’14 season?
I believe what happens with Andrus will have much to do with how the team performs before the July 31 trade deadline. If the Rangers are competing for a third American League West division title in four years, the probability Andrus gets traded is close to zero. However, if the Rangers are playing poorly and are out of the pennant race, the chances Andrus will be traded increase exponentially.
Texas was in a similar situation in 2007 with Boras client Mark Teixeira. The club was rebuilding at the time, but with Teixeira’s free agency approaching in a year and a half, and with Texas buried in the AL West, the club traded Teixeria after he rejected an extension. The trade changed the direction of the franchise, as the Rangers acquired Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison.
The club has to be debating which is more valuable: keeping Andrus for the next two seasons, and risk losing him to free agency, while only receiving a first-round draft choice as compensation, or trading Andrus to a contender that could potentially give the type of package Texas received six years ago for Teixeira.
If Andrus is unwilling to sign an extension, the club should lean towards trading him becasue Profar is under control for six seasons, and the club already is committed long term to current second baseman Ian Kinsler. If Elvis re-signs, Profar would likely move to second base, which would force Kinsler to move to the outfield or first base. The club did consider moving Kinsler to first base earlier in the offseason to make room for Profar, but they have since recanted.
A potential trade I have heard is Andrus for Price, but I doubt the Rays are going to trade a magnificent front-line starter, who isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, for a shortstop whose free agency occurs one year sooner, especially when executives value pitching more than any other position on the diamond.
With Andrus seemingly preferring to test the open market, the Rays are not going to trade a player with more value for a player with a lower value who they will have to later trade anyway. The Rays were able to obtain budding superstar Wil Myers from the Royals for James Shields in December. One can only imagine the haul the Rays could acquire for Price if they chose to trade him.
The Andrus situation is worth watching, and as I have written in the past, I would be hesitant to sign him to an exorbitant contract based on the fact the best prospect in baseball is believed to be ready to step in and replace him, and Andrus’ career slugging average of .378 and wRC+ of 95 are mediocre at best. I realize Andrus’ defense makes up for his lack of potent power numbers, but $20 million dollars per season is a lot of money to be paying a player with his offensive numbers.
What do you think the Rangers should do with Elvis Andrus? Should the organization have included him in a rumored deal for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton?
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