Yesterday it was announced that the Rangers had opened their wallets to sign Elvis Andrus to a $120 million dollar deal, which will keep the shortstop in Texas through 2022. The young All-Star will turn 25 this August which means the Rangers have locked up Andrus throughout the majority of his career. Is that the wisest move GM Jon Daniels could make, especially when you consider the fact that Texas has Jurickson Profar, a consensus top-5 prospect who also plays short, waiting in the wings?
Andrus has been a quality shortstop over the course of his young career. He excels defensively, frequently ranking among the AL leaders over the past 3 seasons range factor, putouts, and assists. He’s one of the rangiest shortstops in baseball and barring injury, he should stay that way for the next 5 seasons or so. Andrus has also cut his errors down in 3 of the 4 years he’s been a pro and he should continue to do so as he passes the 600 game mark this season. Elite defensive shortstops can shave about 15-20 runs per season off a pitching staffs total and Andrus should rank among the elite through the rest of his 20’s.
On offense Elvis Andrus relies almost entirely on speed to be productive. He’s played 602 games in his career and only has 14 total homers to show for it, so he’s not suddenly going to start knocking the ball out of the park. But he does have the ability to hit .275, score 100 runs, hit 30 doubles, and steal 30 bases which is makes for a good lead-off hitter. Andrus is also highly skilled at handling the bat, which makes him a great in bunt situations.
Andrus’ contract also locks down 3 of the 4 infield positions in Texas until the 2015 at the earliest and that’s only if Adrian Beltre doesn’t make it to 600 at-bats in 2015, thanks to a clause in his contract. The Rangers owe Adrian Beltre $41 million through 2015 and another $16 million as long as he hits the 600 at-bat plateau. 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler is owed another $70 million through 2017 and he has an option for 2018 as well. So where does Jurickson Profar, a consensus top-5 prospect, play? As of right now Profar doesn’t have a position. The Rangers don’t want to move him to the outfield, otherwise they would have already done it, and his bat doesn’t have enough pop to warrant playing time at 1st base. The Rangers could also opt to move Kinsler to 1st base and Profar to 2nd, although that’s a lot of shuffling on a defense and it wouldn’t do a whole lot for the offensive attack.
Does that make Profar trade bait then? I’m thinking he has to be. The Rangers could use an outfielder with power and there could be quite a few available at the trade deadline this year. Another starting pitcher could come in handy as well. Young, talented shortstops with big-time potential are a difficult commodity to find and in a trade a player like Profar could pull in a serious haul.
So does that make the Andrus contract a mistake? Not if you’re Rangers GM Jon Daniels. He’s appears to be betting that Andrus will turn into be one of the best shortstops in baseball or at the very least, a better one than Jurickson Profar. But it’s still definitely a big risk to sign a guy long-term who’s game entirely revolves around speed and defense with very, very little power. After all, Andrus has never posted an OPS+ above the league average. But he does make up for that by making a ton of plays in the field and his speed on the base paths can cause havoc for opposing pitchers. Elvis Andrus is also still 24, which means that the Rangers should reap some big rewards on the early part of the deal, while hoping for some quality play on the back-end. This is an interesting move for the Rangers and it looks to be just one of many to be made in the next couple of months.