The Rangers have Elvis Andrus locked down at a reasonable price for the next three years. Sometime between now and then, the next shortstop phenom should be ready. (Tomasso DeRosa/Four Seam Images via AP Images)
Thursday, Feb 9 at 10:52 AM
The Texas Rangers stayed in line with their gameplan of retaining the team's core players by giving shortstop Elvis Andrus a new three year contract that will pay around around $14 million dollars. Rangers fans should breathe a sigh of relief, because this keeps a premium player on the team at a very reasonable rate. The deal locks in Andrus straight through his arbitration years, so his contract status will not be an issue until he hits free agency in 2015.
Before I continue any further, let me be clear in this position: this is a good thing. This deal is nothing but good for the Rangers, and in no way am I criticizing the contract. That said, the signing of this deal definitely opens up some avenues of thought. Mainly: Now that Andrus is locked up, what does this mean for top shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar?
Profar, who will turn 19 on February 20th, is highly touted by just about every prospect maven around. He's young, he's extremely talented, and some are even willing to say that he is going to end up better than Andrus. Only time will tell on that, however let's examine the stats for both players at the age of 18.
Elvis Andrus: 495 at bats, 127 hits, .257 batting average, .338 on base percentage, .343 slugging, .682 OPS
Jurickson Profar: 430 at bats, 123 hits, .286 batting average, .390 on base percentage, .493 slugging, .883 OPS
Now, with those numbers we need to keep a couple things in mind. At 18, Andrus was traded as a part of the Mark Teixeria trade to the Atlanta Braves. So you can make an argument that shifting from one system to another made an impact on Andrus' stats that season. Setting that aside Profar posted better head to head numbers despite 65 fewer at-bats. Profar produced like this at age 18 -- so it stands to reason he is only on pace to improve and improve greatly. Again, we don't know if that will happen or not but it's a very natural assumption.
Which leads me to this hypothetical: Let's fast forward to the end of Elvis' last year of his new deal. He's still performing well, and he's still a top five shortstop in baseball. Let's also say that Profar is also performing as expected, hitting and fielding his way to top prospect status and at the age of 21 or so is clearly ready for major league play. He's ready to take over, and keeping him in the minors is pointless. Facing the reality that he has two major league ready shortstops, what will Jon Daniels do?
The only two viable options are to trade one of the two players, and keep the one not traded to fill your shortstop hole. With the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement changing the way that compensation picks are acquired, simply tendering Andrus a deal expecting two draft picks if he leaves isn't a possibility anymore.
It forces the front office to make a tough choice, and barring a change of position(there have been talks that second baseman Ian Kinsler could be moved and Profar would take over his spot) it appears the Rangers can not have their cake and eat it too.
What's the choice to make? Well that's a bit subjective, because it depends on what you value. I can say if this was Tampa Bay and Andrew Friedman calling the shots, they'd be trading Andrus and keeping the younger, cheaper player. If Texas was still under the poor ownership of Tom Hicks, Andrus would likely be gone because the team wouldn't be able to afford him.
With the new ownership committed to spending, money will not be an issue whenever the time comes to make this call. If I had to project what the decision will come down to, I think it will be whichever can bring the better trade haul. If Profar can bring in more, or better players than Andrus I wouldn't be surprised if Daniels decided to restock the farm system and keep around the proven Andrus. That said, if there's a visible hole on the major league club that an Andrus deal would fill, I don't doubt Daniels would pull the trigger.
While this scenario presents a lot of uncertainty, there is one thing Rangers fans can be totally certain of. Regardless of who goes and who stays, the Rangers will be better for it. Daniels is not going to make a bad deal. Just look at the Teixeria deal, which is the reason Andrus is even in Texas right now.
Daniels has matured a lot since taking the job, and he seems to improve with experience. He fleeced Atlanta with Teixeria, Boston with Eric Gagne, and Seattle during the Cliff Lee deal. If the trend continues, a deal of Andrus or Profar in a few years could end up his masterpiece.