On Monday morning, the Texas Rangers announced that they had extended their second baseman and leadoff man, Ian Kinsler, with a five-year, $75 million contact, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
The contract, which also has an option for a sixth year, locks up the two-time All-Star through the 2017 season, and possibly the 2018 season.
The news of Kinsler’s contract extension also creates a predicament involving the organization’s top prospect, Jurickson Profar, who is currently playing shortstop at Double-A. Recently, Profar was ranked by Prospect Pipeline as the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball.
After the Rangers and Elvis Andrus agreed to an extension through 2014 this past offseason, there has been an underlying assumption that Profar’s clearest path to the Major Leagues is at second base.
In reality, he may not even be ready for an everyday role with the Rangers until Andrus departs via free agency. However, considering that the Rangers assigned him to Double-A to begin the 2012 season suggests that he could be ready as early as late-2013 or early-2014.
There’s no doubt that the 19-year-old switch-hitter is the Rangers’ future shortstop. However, if the Rangers are truly intent on integrating their highly coveted prospect into their long-term plan (prior to the 2015 season, that is), there are still several ways for that to happen.
Despite possessing an elite bat at a premium position, Kinsler has enough value—he posted a career-best 7.7 fWAR in 2011—to play a corner outfield position, likely left field. And with Josh Hamilton becoming a free agent after the 2012 season, and Nelson Cruz and David Murphy slated to hit the market following the 2013 season, Kinsler could potentially bridge the gap between their departed All-Stars and lower-level prospects.
The other option would involve a trade of Andrus, who is represented by Scott Boras and will presumably be difficult to sign following the 2014 season. Therefore, a decision to move Andrus would not only usher in Profar as the Rangers’ shortstop, but, if dealt at the right time to the right team, it could also return a crop of prospects to help fill holes at Double and Triple-A.
Of course, there’s always a possibility that Profar could be dealt at some point in either 2012 or 2013, though it seems unlikely. If the Rangers suffer an injury to one of their star players or decide to bolster the starting rotation, they could command top-notch big-leaguers in return for Profar.
At this point, it’s hard to say which scenario seems more likely. The Rangers made it clear that they want Kinsler at the top of their order for at least the next five seasons, although whether he remains at second base is yet to be determined. They don’t have to immediately, but at some point down the road, the Rangers will be forced to identify either Andrus or Profar as their long-term shortstop.