The Texas Rangers should trade Elvis Andrus. It probably will not happen but it should. It is true that Andrus has a huge contract but he earned that contract by being a first division shortstop. His WAR stats back this up. For example, over the past three seasons he has been the fifth best shortstop by WAR. Many teams need a shortstop. Texas is not one of those teams. This team is one offseason from having at least two starting caliber shortstops without a position because of Andrus. Andrus is a great defender, although some of his defensive statistics can be suspect at times.
Andrus’s most glaring problem is that he is not a great hitter. Ron Washington has always hit Andrus in the second spot in the order despite Andrus never putting a full season of quality offense together. Andrus is a major league quality hitter in that he does have nice stretches but he never dominates. Andrus has flashed the potential to be an above average hitter but considering how long he has been in the major leagues it is probably safe to say that he will never be even an average major league hitter. Andrus’s best season, 2012, ended with a 97 wRC+. When he can put league average offense with his solid defense he is a very valuable player but more often than not he fails to be even average offensively.
I am a big fan of Elvis Andrus. I will watch every inning in a game even when the Rangers are getting blown out and one reason I will do this is to see Andrus throw out runners. He plays defense as smoothly as any defender in the majors, maybe even more so than any in recent memory. He makes every play and he does so with consistent flare.
The fact is that Texas has young players that can at least replace him if not improve on his play. The Rangers traded away Ian Kinsler to make room for Jurickson Profar. Instead of seeing Profar however, we have gotten a heavy dose of Rougned Odor and sprinkling of Luis Sardinas. These two have more than held their own in the majors. Odor has been downright dazzling and, while I cannot speak for the rest of Rangers nation, he has quickly become one of this fan’s favorite Rangers. Odor has already contributed 0.4 WAR in less than 150 plate appearances. Pro rate this to 600 plate appearances and he would be worth roughly 2 WAR. This would make him approximately starting caliber at second base in his rookie campaign. For comparison, Ian Kinsler had a 2.5 WAR effort in 2013.
Sardinas has maintained his batting average although he has not shown a great on base ability or any power he has not really looked overwhelmed either. Sardinas has been approximately replacement level but has gotten far fewer chances than Odor. One has to think that Odor can stick at second, which means Texas has to decide what to do with Profar in 2015 and probably what to do about Sardinas.
One option is to leave Sardinas in triple A, keep Andrus at short, give Profar second and keep Odor on as a replacement. This definitely works and if I had to wager on what Jon Daniels will do this would be it.
Texas can do better though.
Andrus is expensive and both Profar and Sardinas have a good chance to be at least as good as Andrus. Profar’s top prospect ranking was built on his exceptionally high floor. Give Profar a shot at shortstop and he should at least replace Andrus at a fraction of the cost. Sardinas does not have the offensive upside that Profar boasts but he should be very strong defensively and has a real chance to match Elvis’s offense. With these two in the fold Texas has no need for Andrus, particularly at his cost.
Make no mistake, Andrus has one very important thing that neither Profar nor Sardinas have. Andurs has proven himself at the major league level. Profar and Sardinas could very well flame out. One might be tempted to think Andrus is nothing more than a light hitting, defense first shortstop, which is certainly true to some extent, but he has proven to be one of the most valuable shortstops in baseball over the past few years. Recall the above WAR statistics. It is not easy to replace the fifth best shortstop in baseball.
Andrus also brings important intangibles to a team with his infectious smile and playful attitude. His general cheeriness is probably very valuable during a long hot baseball season. Part of his value stems from his base stealing and base running in general. He has the most steals between 2011 and 2013 among all qualified shortstops. Andrus does many things well and he should not be discounted as critical member of this team. He got his contract for a reason. Andrus is more just a utility guy, he is a top flight shortstop.
These points, however, do not seem to justify his contract given the alternatives. Texas would be better served to deal Andrus, while paying a portion of his contract in order to restock the minor league ranks and clear a spot for Jurickson Profar. No other teams have the depth Texas does up the middle and the team is in a great place to take advantage of this. As tough as it is to say, it is time to move on from the Elvis Andrus era in Texas.