The Texas Rangers should know where these negotiations are headed. In a recent effort to sign star shortstop Elvis Andrus to a long-term deal, the Rangers hit a solid roadblock—stubborn super-agent Scott Boras.
Andrus is the property of Texas through the 2014 season, but GM Jon Daniels stepped up his game during the off-season in hopes of locking the all-star up for a lot longer. Andrus, obviously unimpressed with the talks, says that he and the Rangers are not “on the same page”. This should come as no surprise to Rangers fans.
The three-year deal that Andrus signed last winter was simply a bridge to cover his arbitration-eligible years. It added no additional time to Texas’ player control. Boras has a history of failing to reach contract extensions with star players, cleaning up on the free agent market instead. Though that strategy seems to be failing with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse right now, Andrus’ case is much different.
The Rangers infielder is just 25 years old, but he’s had maximum MLB service time with Texas since 2009. This means that he’ll become a free agent at the age of 26—a rarity in today’s game. At such a young age, Andrus will command a huge contract in both years and money. At this point, the only risk in waiting for free agency is injuries. For the Rangers to even compete financially, they’ll have to offer Andrus a contract similar to what he would get in the open market. That’s just not going to happen.
The Rangers deperately need more power in their lineup, so cashing in the Andrus chip right now could be a season saver. The longer they wait, the less they’ll get in return because other teams can see that free agent finish line just as well as Texas can.
The Rangers would theoretically lose very little by trading Andrus. If they can pick up a good hitter with a good contract in return, they’ll actually gain value. This is, of course, because top prospect Jurickson Profar seems ready for the majors now, even though he’s just 19 years old.
The Rangers need to move Andrus as soon as possible rather than at the trading deadline in 2014. His value is very high right now, and the Rangers have the depth to replace him. If they wait, Andrus’ stock will steadily drop due to his impending 2014 free agency as well as his agent. Trying to balance winning now versus staying competitive in the future is the toughest job of a GM. But with the what’s at stake here, there’s only one logical course of action. Daniels should start making phone calls now.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)