Rangers' Future Question: Should the Team Ever Trade Elvis Andrus?

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Rangers' Future Question: Should the Team Ever Trade Elvis Andrus?
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There are some Texas Ranger fans who believe that it could be in the team's best interest to eventually trade shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Parting with Andrus, who was a core member of the 2010 and 2011 Rangers teams that made consecutive World Series appearances, would be an extremely difficult call to make.

But there are pretty fair arguments on both sides of the coin here.

Before I take a look at this, one critical point needs to be established: Andrus will not be traded this season or even next season.

This is a deal—if it were to happen—that wouldn't happen for at least another couple of years. It may never happen. There certainly haven't been any rumblings that Jon Daniels and the front office are considering it.

So with that said, let's take a look at this question.

 

If the Rangers Eventually Trade Andrus

It would mean that Jurickson Profar would slide over to his home position at shortstop, where he would likely be more effective and comfortable.

Secondly, cutting ties with Andrus means that Roughned Odor would take over at second base, which is his natural position.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor
Profar would likely be less of a question mark playing shortstop.

Obviously, this deal wouldn't happen anytime soon because Odor is not major-league ready.

He is still probably a couple of years away from being able to play second base every day for the Rangers. The only way Daniels makes this move is if he has absolute confidence in Odor to be a major contributor for the club. 

Odor is a special prospect.

He is a complete player, whom I think has better potential hitting ability than Profar. Odor has shown an ability to maintain his impressive numbers even after transitioning minor league levels.

In 2013 with High A Myrtle Beach, Odor hit .305 with five homers and 59 RBI. He makes hard, square contact as his 17.7 percent strikeout rate is very solid for a 19-year old.

Odor was promoted to AA Frisco late in the year.

In 134 at-bats with the Rough Riders, he still hit .305 with six big flies and 19 RBI. His strikeout rate and walk rate remained almost identical, even at the next level. That is the sign of a special player. 

So it is believed that Odor will be ready for the Rangers in a couple of years. I have every confidence in his ability and hype. 

The single greatest advantage to dealing Andrus is salary relief.

After 2014, he will enter into his eight-year, $120 million contract extension that he signed right before the the start of last season. Many Ranger fans—myself included—were relieved that he wasn't going to hit free agency, especially since the ever-daunting Scott Boras is his agent.

But many of these fans seriously questioned if Andrus was worth $15 million a year.

I always believed that the front office had to overwhelm Andrus early, in order to convince him to stay with Texas long-term. Andrus has shown noticeable improvement, but I still don't think he is worth that money. 

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Andrus has improved at the plate each year he's been with Texas.

It's a contract that takes up a big space in the Rangers' payroll.

That $15 million could be used to sign future free agent talent in the next few years.

Premier defensive shortstops with a developing bat and power don't come cheap, however. The question that the Rangers need to ask is this: Can a middle infield of Profar and Odor in two to three years be more effective than a combination of Andrus-Profar now or next year?

One thing is for sure: Profar and Odor is a far, far cheaper duo.

What is Andrus' ceiling? Realistically, how much more can he improve? At best, I see Andrus as a .280 to .285 hitter with 10 and 75 potential, who will play A-plus defense. Can Odor eventually produce more than that? Again, this is a question that will take much more time to answer.

Andrus has a 2018 opt-out clause in his contract. By then, he still won't even be 30. He will be very attractive to several teams. He is a talented player with an impressive pedigree.

For now, though, Andrus and Profar are clearly set. But what if Odor has an all-star year in AA, gets promoted to AAA late in the year or early next season and continues his wild success? Daniels would have to seriously consider dealing Andrus in the future. 

 

If the Rangers Don't Eventually Trade Andrus

They'd be keeping an all-star caliber shortstop, but would also likely be blocking Odor from breaking in with the Rangers unless Profar was traded in the next couple of years.

It's perfectly reasonable to assume that unless either Andrus or Profar are moved, Odor may never see regular major-league time and could be traded.

Is Odor too talented for that? I think so.

Ultimately, if Texas doesn't trade Andrus, it will be because they view him as the future face of the franchise.

At just 25, he has experience on the highest stage, starting in two World Series.  He is still a developing player at the plate and hasn't reached his prime as a hitter. 

He's taking noticeable strides with his bat.

Last season he started out slow average-wise, but it wasn't because he was struggling to hit. He was roping the ball and making hard contact, but had terrible luck as balls generally went right to fielders. In the second half, he was making the same quality contact, but the balls started falling in and thus his average leaped quickly.

I expect more improvement from Andrus this season, particularly with his OBP. He should also steadily improve his power over the next couple of seasons, until he gets closer to his 10-homer plateau. If he does that, it might be even tougher for Daniels to deal him.

So long-term, this decision ultimately comes down to who has higher potential as a shortstop, Profar or Andrus? Odor will be a better second baseman than Profar because Odor is a natural second baseman. But can Profar be a better overall shortstop, both at the plate and defensively, than Andrus?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
A Rangers' trade for David Price this offseason could lock Andrus in at shortstop.

Short-term, this could be one of the things holding Daniels back from a David Price trade or a trade for any A-list pitcher.

That deal would most certainly require Profar, Martin Perez or both. If Daniels trades Profar for a big pitcher, Andrus won't be going anywhere until at least 2018.

If the club were to deal Perez and others for Price, Andrus could be on the block for perhaps another quality pitcher to replace Perez a couple years later, while Profar and Odor form the middle infield. 

Boy, this is a crazy decision to make.

I'm not even sure I can decide here. I do believe the best way to begin making a decision on this is to closely monitor Odor's progress throughout AA this year and in AAA in 2015. If Daniels and the front office are impressed enough, I could probably live with an Andrus trade. 

But it's nearly an impossible call to make this offseason or at anytime during the 2014 season.

Decisions, decisions, decisions—both in the short- and long-term.

In the past and even early this offseason, many Ranger fans were irritated with Daniels' tendency for patience with acquisitions. But the question of what to do with Andrus is one that clearly requires a lot of it. This would be a ground-shaking move for the franchise that must be thoroughly thought out.

Patience is what makes Daniels one of the best—possibly the best—GM in baseball. It's part of what will keep this franchise in contention for the next several years.

What do you think? Do you think the Rangers should eventually trade Andrus?

 

*All stats and contract info courtesy of baseball-reference.com and MLB.com Texas Ranger prospect watch.

 

 

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