In baseball terms, is Elvis worth $120 million dollars?
In 2015, as he enters his prime at the age of 26, Elvis’s yearly salary will increase to $15 million and will stay at that level until 2020 (he may opt out of contract after the 2018 and 2019 seasons; drops to $14 million for 2021 and 2022 with a $15 million vesting option for 2023 when he will be 34 years old).
On the surface, $15 million a year seems too high for a guy that is a career .273/.337/.348 hitter with 20 home runs in five-plus seasons. Also, at that price, he is paid like a top three MLB shortstop, but is he?
Since Andrus debuted in 2009, he is fourth in WAR according to Fangraphs (16.7 fWAR) among shortstops trailing only Troy Tulowitizki, Hanley Ramirez and Alexei Ramirez. Also during this span, Andrus is second in games played (816) behind A. Ramirez (839). He is first in plate appearances (3,544), runs scored (465), stolen bases (178) and BsR (40.7) which measures a player’s ability on the base paths (also called Ultimate Base Running). Andrus has done all of this while learning to be a big league ballplayer (age 20-25). There have been very few shortstops in MLB history to be as successful as Elvis through their age 24 season.
The only players with a higher fWAR than Elvis’s (16.0) through age 24 since 1950? Alex Rodriguez (35.0), Cal Ripken (27.8), Jim Fregosi (21.8), Robin Yount (17.3) and Hanley Ramirez (16.6).
Andrus is in rarified air and this is precisely why the Rangers’ front office felt he should be paid. According to Fangraphs, he has already been worth $76 million in terms of value for the Rangers and he is projected to be a three-win player going forward for the next five years (Oliver Projections). If wins are worth $5-7 million dollars as Dave Cameron and others say in the industry, then Andrus will have no trouble reaching the value of his contract.
While his defense appears to be declining in recent years (UZR 2012-14: 8.3, 4.6, -1.5), he is still sixth among shortstops since 2009 in Defensive Runs Saved (28). The combination of his defense and baserunning ability have made Elvis a consistent top five shortstop in Major League Baseball. As contracts continue to inflate thanks to MLB’s new TV deals which puts an additional $25 million in the owners’ pockets beginning this year, this deal will be a bargain for the Rangers.
Of course, if Elvis does begin to hit with more regularity, he could always opt out of his deal in 2018 or 2019 to become a free agent. That would be a good problem to have as it means Elvis’s play in the field the previous three seasons warranted him seeking a new deal.
Andrus is a most valuable commodity for the Texas Rangers. He is a link (a rather young one at that) back to win the team was at its zenith in 2010 and 2011, and is a bridge to a new era surrounded by players that are younger and less experienced than him. Would he be worth $15 million a year to another team? Possibly not, but he is that valuable and more to Ron Washington, Jon Daniels and the entire organization.
The best is yet to come for Elvis and the Texas Rangers.
Eddie Middlebrook also writes for Paranoid Fan as a MLB and College Football contributor. He can be on Twitter @emiddlebrook.