The Texas Rangers are in a bit of a jam, and Ian Kinsler just made the situation worse.
With Elvis Andrus, Kinsler and highly-regarded prospect Jurickson Profar all worthy of starting spots on the Rangers’ 2013 opening day lineup, they assumed that Kinsler would be flexible and move to first base in order to free up space for Profar.
Earlier in the offseason, Kinsler said he’d do what the team needs him to do. That is, until he recently expressed that he’d like to play second base.
Kinsler spoke to Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, saying “second base is where I want to play and I still feel I have a lot to give this team in that position. It’s nice that I’m at a position where I think I’ll help us win.”
So, Texas now has two spots for three players, which obviously won’t work out. Andrus seems to be the one “lock” to start. Kinsler and Profar, meanwhile, seem to be the question marks.
Profar could begin the season in the minors, which would be a waste, but would also buy time for the Rangers to create a plan. Or, Kinsler could again be bribed into playing first base so that Profar could stay with the big team. Obviously, the Rangers would prefer the latter, if they had a choice.
Or… why not trade Andrus?
There hasn’t been a shortage of interest for the 24-year-old shortstop. A few weeks ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were willing to flip Justin Upton for Andrus. But that was before they acquired Didi Gregorius.
Andrus, a two-time All-Star, is arguably one of the better fielding shortstops in baseball. His 8.8 UZR in 2012 ranked fifth amongst qualified shortstops, and his range is seemingly unlimited. He’s also shown consistency with the glove, as he’s ranked in the top-10 in UZR (28) and defensive runs saved (plus-23) since he broke into the league in 2009.
Part of the reason Andrus is so highly coveted amongst general managers, is because he simply plays shortstop. The position is slim in terms of talent these days, and when a good one comes along, he usually gets locked up.
Well, the Rangers just happen to be a bit more fortunate than other teams because they have not one, but two cornerstone shortstops in Andrus and Profar. For Nolan Ryan and his crew, it’s just a matter of deciding which one they’re better off with for the foreseeable future.
The process of determining which one is better is easier said than done, though. Profar’s upside is unavoidable, but Andrus has already proven himself as a fine shortstop and a capable hitter. That’s the thing, though—Profar may shred Andrus’ capable label when it’s all said and done.
Andrus is consistent with the bat, but he’s nothing special either. This past season he had an OPS of .727, and had an elevated strikeout rate of 13.5 percent along with a lowered walk rate of only eight percent. I wouldn’t exactly call those figures appealing, especially in the context that he’s a leadoff hitter.
Andrus does offer a considerable amount of speed on the base paths (10th in MLB in stolen bases since 2009) too, but Profar may, and seemingly is the choice to be the better hitter of the two. If that verdict is accurate, Andrus’ other skills wouldn’t be able to compensate.
So, Andrus’ average hitting may prevent him from ever becoming a Troy Tulowitzki-esque shortstop. However, the Rangers could trade him while his value and potential are still high.
See, teams still believe that Andrus could become an elite hitter, which he could, but there isn’t a lot going for that prediction. And with Kinsler putting a line in the sand that he prefers to play second base, they may have to move Andrus anyway.
There are a ton of appealing attributes about Andrus that teams crave, and a few glaring caveats. But, probably his most appealing attribute is his flexible contract. He’s only owed just slightly more $11 million total over the next two years before he came opt to become a free agent. Andrus is a Scott Boras client, but Boras can’t interfere with his contract until 2015 rolls around.
By trading Andrus, perhaps the Rangers could fetch the righty-hitting bat they’ve been searching for all offseason. They’ve quietly slowed their pursuit of Upton, a player who they’ve showed interest in during the winter meetings. They may be willing to re-engage if Andrus is brought back into discussions.
Although, Andrus no longer seems to intrigue the D-Backs. Given that they’ve presumably acquired their shortstop for the future, I wouldn’t blame them, especially if they’ve done their homework on the Rangers’ shortstop.
Elsewhere, Andrus surely wouldn’t fetch them Giancarlo Stanton alone. To acquire the Marlins’ slugger, Profar would certainly have to be included. So, speculation here will remain speculation until a legitimate deal surfaces.
Finding a trading partner won’t be too strenuous, though. The Rangers will just have to fully commit to trading their young shortstop, then the line of suitors will emerge because he would officially be on the block. It’s not like he will demand a huge sum in return, but it wouldn’t be shabby either.
However, Texas should seek out a trade. Andrus certainly has offensive upside, but upside doesn’t always pan out. If Andrus does thrive somewhere else, well, they let one go. But chances are, Andrus will never be much more than a great defensive shortstop will a middling bat. Right now, however, teams would only be intrigued by his upside, and the Rangers could capitalize on that.