The Rangers’ 10-year commitment to shortstop Elvis Andrus sounds huge, almost unfathomable. And it would be, if not for one thing: The commitment is not likely to be a 10-year commitment at all.
Andrus, who is under contract for the next two seasons, is expected to finalize his eight-year, $120 million extension with the Rangers later this week. But his deal includes an opt-out clause after 2018, according to Fox Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, potentially reducing the team’s commitment to four years, $60 million.
The potential escape is critical for Andrus and his agent, Scott Boras; Andrus likely will opt out if he stays healthy, becoming a free agent at age 30 instead of 34.
Why would the Rangers make such a concession?
Because it enables them to accomplish the rare feat of buying out four free-agent years on a Boras client — Boras generally shuns extensions, preferring his players to establish their values on the open market.
This way, the Rangers will control Andrus from his age 26 to 29 seasons at an average salary of $15 million — perhaps an overpay, but perhaps a bargain compared to what Andrus might have received as a free agent after next season.
The downside for the Rangers is that Andrus may suffer a serious injury and decide not to opt out. But the club almost certainly will buy insurance on Andrus to protect itself against such an outcome.
The other interesting aspect of Andrus’ opt-out is what it could mean for Rangers Triple-A shortstop Jurickson Profar, who just turned 20 and is one of the game’s top prospects.
The Andrus deal obviously will give the team the flexibility to trade Profar or second baseman Ian Kinsler. But the Rangers also can keep Profar, move him to second and then put him back at short after Andrus opts out.
At that point, Profar probably will have played second for four seasons. But he still will be only 25, entering his age 26 campaign.
So, while Profar eventually could bring back Rays left-hander David Price, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton or Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras in a trade, Profar also remains immensely valuable to the Rangers.
Kinsler, who is just starting a five-year, $75 million extension, would appear to be a more likely trade candidate. But Kinsler’s value is down coming off his career-low .749 OPS in 2012.
The Rangers eventually can move Kinsler to either first base or left field to make room for Profar. Their more immediate move might be to drop him out of the leadoff spot in favor of Andrus.
Kinsler’s on-base percentage dropped from .382 to .355 to .326 from 2010 to ’12. Andrus’ OBP rose from .342 to .347 to .349 during those same years.
— Ken Rosenthal