The Rangers are close to a significant extension with shortstop Elvis Andrus, a source confirmed to our Joe Trahan.
First off, the money is substantial. The initial report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal had this as a six-year extension to an existing two-year contract. But Jon Heyman now reports the deal is for eight new years and $120M in new money - so if this pans out, Elvis Andrus will be a Ranger for ten more years, over which he will earn $131 Million. That assumes Andrus plays out the deal, rather than taking an opt-out clause, which TR Sullivan reported might be included in the contract. So, $131 million. $11 million over the next two seasons, then a $15 million average in the following eight.
Yeah, that's a lot.
It's a lot for a player with only 14 career home runs. It's a ton for a player who has yet to be an above-average offensive player. It's more than you'd expect the Rangers to commit to a player whose replacement lies waiting in AAA, more-or-less unanimously deferred to with the title of 'best prospect in baseball.'
It's still a fair number.
Elvis Andrus may be the best shortstop in baseball not named Troy Tulowitzki. He's MLB's 3rd-best over the last two years, and has shown steady improvement over the last three seasons. He's a sublime defender, a uniquely valuable baserunner and capable of much more than what he's shown to date.
Elvis Andrus is 24 years, 7 months and 6 days old. That makes him 4 years, 3 months and 3 days younger than Craig Gentry, who's going into his second full year as a Ranger. As Lone Star Ball founder Adam Morris pointed out on Twitter, it makes him a single day older than prospect Mike Olt, who's in AAA waiting his turn. Players who attain the type of success Andrus has at this young an age generally go on to phenomenal careers. Here's the full list of shortstops from 1938 to today who were more valuable to their teams from the age of 20 to 23 than Andrus has been.
Alex Rodriguez (14-time all-star, 3-time MVP)
Cal Ripken (19-time all-star, Hall of Famer)
Jim Fregosi (6-time all-star)
That's it. Three guys. Three guys in the last 75 years.
Here's the point: Elvis Andrus is in rare company. We dismiss him as a punchless defensive specialist because we have that ingrained in our heads, but he's younger than a lot of rookies. Elvis isn't done growing by any means. The Elvis you'd have seen when his contract expired in November of 2014 could have been a totally different player, one very capable of busting way past Jose Reyes' six-year, $108 milllion and reaching that hallowed salary level reserved for Jeter and Tulowitzki.
Getting Elvis locked up now allowed the Rangers to do a couple of things -- a couple of important things.
First off, it gave them security. For the rest of this decade, the Texas Rangers will have Elvis Andrus. That's huge. They have a sure thing, a star, at a position where talent has become very scarce.
Second, they paid the going rate for Elvis as he is. Over four years in the league, Elvis has been worth $57.4M, an average of right around $14.5 million. Adjust for a yearly five percent inflation, and Elvis could easily be worth his contract without improving at all. By locking Elvis up now, rather than waiting for him to have a breakout year or 29 competing bidders, the team got him at a relatively cheap rate. Teams give huge contracts to free agents because they provide certainty, because of what they've done. They almost never expect them to improve. The reason Alex Rodriguez got $250M+ here was that he hit the market at 25 years old. Scott Boras told the Rangers they could reasonably expect to get a decade of elite play... and he was right. For all his faults, A-Rod was tremendous over that decade (That SECOND $250M+ contract, though.... Woof).
The Elvis investment provides a rare blend of certainty and upside. Historical logic, conventional trends and the hunches of some of the best baseball people I know indicate Elvis Andrus' best days are ahead of him. The Rangers didn't wait for Elvis' best ways. They got this deal done now, securing a franchise cornerstone through his prime years. That's not just a smart baseball move. It's a beautiful thing for fans of the team, and one we don't get to see enough of.
Okay, great. Elvis is here for a decade. How does this affect the 2013 team? Quite a bit, I think.
The Rangers now have three very attractive middle infield options and only two middle infield positions. Oh, the humanity! One is 24 and just committed to being here for a decade. Another is (barely) 20 and the best prospect in the entire sport. The third is 30, entering a five-year contract and trying to rebound off a (still above-average) off-year. While he may not like it, Ian Kinsler is the third wheel here. Kinsler did not want to move to first base this season, scrapping the initial master plan for getting Profar to Arlington ASAP. Has he changed his mind? After one game and an Elvis signature.... no, still probably not.
So this comes down to a few possibilities: