Early Monday, the Texas Rangers chose to lock up their starting shortstop Elvis Andrus with an eight-year, $120,000,000 extension that will take him through his prime seasons.
Andrus, who earlier this off-season missed a spring training game due to tattoo-related arm soreness, was given one hundred and twenty million reasons to enjoy Opening Day. Furthermore, his new contract extension (which runs for ten years when including the two years left on his current deal) allows him to opt out after the 2018 season, when Andrus will be 29 years of age. If his offense grows and his defense remains sharp, Andrus could potentially fetch even larger figures from a team desperate for a shortstop. It is likely that Andrus, who is currently represented by Scott Boras, will exercise that opt-out clause and seek another big-money deal on the market, likely with a team such as the Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers or Nationals.
At first glance, it would appear as though the Rangers might have been better off trading Andrus than
paying him out the ass for quality defense but so-so offense. Granted, Andrus plays at a position of scarcity when it comes to offensive production,
but he's also playing half his games in a hitter's park and is still
barely cracking a .700 OPS heading into his prime. Andrus has also yet to post a season with a league-average OPS+ (league average is 100; last season Andrus finished with a 91 OPS+). Elvis's new deal also makes the Ian
Kinsler contract extension from last year an issue. Do the Rangers choose wait a year
or two, put Profar at short, Andrus at 2B, and shift Kinsler over to
1st base, then wait for Beltre's contract to expire and Mike Olt to
slide into 3rd base? Do they try to trade Kinsler before the big chunk
of money he's owed comes into play? Kinsler is scheduled to make $16,000,000 in 2014 and 2015, $14,000,000 in 2016, and $11,000,000 in 2017 with an option for the 2018 season ($10,000,000 or a $5,000,000 buyout).
On the other hand, perhaps this is the beginning of a power play by Jon Daniels. One idea that's been tossed around is the potential attempt to trade
Jurickson Profar to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton, which on the surface would appear to be a fit for both teams. The Rangers have locked up their starting shortstop and second baseman in consecutive seasons, keeping them in Texas uniforms for the forseeable
future. Additionally, they have in Mike Olt a prospect that can profile at either corner infield position, depending on how things play out in the future. Adrian Beltre is signed through 2016 and due $67,000,000 over the remainder of his contract, so he appears to be locked in at third base until then, leaving one less spot for Mike Olt to sneak his way into the lineup. Profar is the
game's best prospect and will be paid a pittance for the first several
years of his career, making him a prime target for a Marlins team that is about profits above all else and is currently stockpiling a number of quality prospects (Nathan Eovaldi [SP], Jose Fernandez [SP], Christian Yelich [OF], Adeiny Hechavarria [2B/SS], Justin Nicolino [SP], Jake Marisnick [OF], Jacob Turner [SP], and Marcell Ozuna [OF]).
Miami surely realizes at this point that Giancarlo Stanton is already as good as gone the moment he hits free agency, having witnessed the massive purge of the roster following a disastrous 2012 season. While not eligible for free agency until 2017, Stanton will certainly see a drastic increase in salary following the 2013 season (currently he is making $537,000), given his career production thus far. It would behoove the Marlins to acquire an abundance of talent for Stanton, and Jurickson Profar fits that mold perfectly. He has the abilities of Jose Reyes but without the massive contract, making him all the more appealing for Team Loria. Meanwhile, Stanton possesses the kind of prodigious power that would become even more dangerous in the summer heat of Arlington while also putting more behinds in the seats at the ballpark. Trading Giancarlo Stanton would be a tough decision for many teams, as would be trading Jurickson Profar. However, it would appear that this is as perfect a fit as could be. Only time will tell whether or not anything becomes of this rumor.
However, some deft maneuvering could perhaps allow Daniels to have his cake and eat it too. Craig Gentry is still in his arbitration years (meaning he is not eligible for free agency until 2017), while Leonys Martin is signed through 2015 at under $4,000,000 per season. Nelson Cruz, their current right fielder, is a free agent after this season. Similar to Josh Hamilton, Cruz is a player who blossomed late (though clearly for different reasons), has produced great numbers, but has also become an injury risk. David Murphy, the team's current left fielder, is also slated to become a free agent in 2014. The Rangers could choose to allow Cruz or Murphy to walk (more likely Cruz, due to the odds that he receives a big-money contract in free agency), and subsequently put Mike Olt in the outfield for a couple of seasons. This would allow them to keep Jurickson Profar and have him play shortstop, while sliding Elvis Andrus over to second base, Ian Kinsler to first base, and Mitch Moreland to the bench or back to the designated hitter role (it should be noted that Lance Berkman's contract with the Rangers has a 2014 option that vests if Berkman gets 550 PAs) either full-time or part-time in a platoon. This may be the most intriguing option for Jon Daniels and the Rangers, and the most likely scenario.