It promises to be a busy offseason for the Texas Rangers as they look to bounce back from a disappointing season that saw them collapse down the stretch and miss out on the postseason.
They have clear needs at catcher and at left field, and they could certainly use another frontline arm in their rotation, but perhaps the biggest issue facing the team right now is sorting out their middle infield situation.
Finding a way to get 20-year-old Jurickson Profar everyday at-bats is a must at this point, but with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus entrenched at second base and shortstop, respectively, that's easier said than done.
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has reported that the team is considering moving either Kinsler or Andrus this offseason, an idea they kicked around last winter as well.
The Rangers again are pondering whether to trade second baseman Ian Kinsler or shortstop Elvis Andrus to clear a middle-infield position for Jurickson Profar, according to major league sources. A move of Kinsler to first base also is possible but probably less appealing.
It's a good problem to have from the Rangers' standpoint, and even with Kinsler due $57 million over the next four years and Andrus due a whopping $126.475 million over the next nine years, there would no doubt be a market for both players if they were made available.
Middle infield talent is always in short supply throughout the league, and the fact that neither player is a one-year rental certainly adds to their value. Let's take a closer look at who could be in the running for each player's services.
The Market for Ian Kinsler
League-wide, the second base position is lacking in impact offensive players, and it's fair to say that the 31-year-old Kinsler is firmly in the top 10 at his position, and pushing the top five when he's healthy. The 2009 and 2011 seasons both saw Kinsler put up a 30/30 campaign.
On top of his offensive production, Kinsler is also an above-average defender. His range is somewhat limited, and he's probably not going to win a Gold Glove anytime soon, but his 11 Defensive Runs Saved ranked second to Dustin Pedroia among AL second basemen.
He's due $16 million each of the next two seasons, then $14 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017. That's followed by a $12 million option for 2018 that carries a $5 million buyout.
There are a number of teams that got poor production from the second base position last season and will be in the market to upgrade there this offseason. Here is a look at five teams that could certainly use Kinsler.
|Team||Projected 2B||Combined Stat Line of Second Basemen in 2013|
|Atlanta||Dan Uggla||.198/.311/.357, 111 H, 22 HR|
|Baltimore||Ryan Flaherty||.236/.300/.369, 130 H, 15 HR|
|Chicago (NL)||Darwin Barney||.211/.269/.302, 122 H, 8 HR|
|Kansas City||Emilio Bonifacio||.243/.296/.304, 140 H, 4 HR|
|Toronto||Maicer Izturis||.216/.258/.297, 126 H, 7 HR|
Other teams with poor production included the Mariners (.214/.289/.330), White Sox (.266/.308/.351) and Marlins (.235/.292/.349), but with youngsters Nick Franklin, Marcus Semien and Derek Dietrich set to fill the position for those teams, respectively, they likely won't pursue Kinsler.
The Cubs could give prospect Arismendy Alcantara a look at second base next year, with Barney still providing Gold Glove-caliber defense even if he doesn't bring much to the table offensively, so the Cubs may not be candidates, either.
A cost-cutting trade of Dan Uggla would likely be prerequisite to the Braves getting in on Kinsler, but that may not be out of the realm of possibility, considering the team kept Uggla off the postseason roster despite his hefty salary.
That leaves the Orioles, Blue Jays and Royals as the three teams who seem to make the most sense from a need standpoint. However, you can add to that mix the Tigers and Yankees if Omar Infante and Robinson Cano don't wind up re-signing.
Aside from Cano and Infante, the free-agent market is relatively thin on second basemen, but the Rangers may not be the only ones trying to trade at the position. Howie Kendrick (Angels), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Brandon Phillips (Reds) and Uggla (Braves) are all potential trade chips this offseason, so it will be a matter of teams finding the right deal.
The Market for Elvis Andrus
It certainly looked like Elvis Andrus was going to be staying in Texas for the long haul when he signed an eight-year, $120 million extension in April of last year that would go into effect at the beginning of the 2015 season.
Acquired from the Braves in the now-legendary Mark Teixeira deadline deal of 2007, Andrus took over as the Rangers' everyday shortstop as a 20-year-old in 2009 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting that season.
A two-time All-Star, Andrus brings superior defense in the field and a decent mix of speed (33 SB per season) and plate discipline (.339 career OBP) to the No. 2 spot in the Rangers order.
Whether or not he was worth what the Rangers paid him is debatable, but the shortstop position is becoming harder and harder to fill around the league, and that's exactly why there is likely still a good market for the 25-year-old. Here are five teams that could use Andrus.
|Team||Projected SS||Combined Stat Line of Shortstops in 2013|
|Minnesota||Pedro Florimon Jr.||.223/.281/.333, 119 H, 11 HR|
|New York (AL)||Derek Jeter||.228/.286/.312, 132 H, 5 HR|
|New York (NL)||Ruben Tejada||.215/.285/.276, 126 H, 3 HR|
|Pittsburgh||Jordy Mercer||.236/.283/.347, 135 H, 10 HR|
|St. Louis||Pete Kozma||.222/.280/.303, 126 H, 4 HR|
The Royals (.230/.255/.295) ranked last in the majors in OPS from the shortstop position but will likely stick with Alcides Escobar at the position. The Mariners (.231/.285/.339) and Cubs (.241/.282/.342) also got subpar production from the position, but both teams have young in-house options.
The Pirates appear ready to turn things over to Jordy Mercer (.285/.336/.435 in 333 AB) after a solid season, and they have a top prospect in Alen Hanson likely to take over the position in a few years, so they may not be in the running.
Which Infielder Should the Rangers Trade?
The Mets and Cardinals have glaring needs, and the Cardinals in particular have a bevy of trade chips they could use to put together a trade package. The wild card here may be the Yankees, as the Hall of Fame career of Derek Jeter is winding down and he'll likely spend a good deal of time at DH between now and retirement.
Like second base, the free-agent market is thin behind Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew, but there are a number of potential trade options. Erick Aybar (Angels), Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) and prospect Chris Owings (Diamondbacks) could all be on the move.
In the end, the Rangers have a tough decision ahead of them, and they're not likely to trade either guy simply for the sake of trading him. Moving Kinsler to first base or left field, or using someone from that trio to DH for the time being remain options.
If I had to pick one deal that made the most sense for both sides, I'd say Andrus to the Cardinals, but we shall see how things end up shaking out.