Elvis Andrus is Untradeable


I assumed, before beginning to write this, that Elvis Andrus was untradeable. After doing the necessary research, I have not changed my mind.

Andrus’ 120 million, 8 year contract is not quite as awful as it looks. It runs through 2022, sure, but each year only costs 15 million dollars. The going rate for a win above replacement is about 7 million dollars in free agency. Still, it is pretty awful.

Sep 14, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) throws to first base as Atlanta Braves designated hitter Ryan Doumit (4) slides into second base during the game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Braves 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on the service time of the player, extensions can be cheaper because a player in the beginning of his career will accept an undervalued deal that acts as some sort of insurance. The most extreme example is Salvador Perez of the Royals, who signed for 7 million dollars spread out over 5 years. He guaranteed that he would never be poor, but also signed away tens of millions of dollars in the process.

Andrus’ contract is not an example of this. He signed for roughly the market value (2 wins per season at free agent valuation), so his contract is vastly more difficult to trade than, say, Perez’.

Also, he is literally the only player ever signed to a 60M+ extension who never showed any power. His value is almost entirely derived from his defense, which usually declines with age. By the time his contract ends when he is 34, he will almost certainly have lost his defining skill. The day Andrus is no longer a top-flight defender is the day his extension is an albatross. (Defensive metrics weren’t favorable to him, but he also played through nagging injuries. He could still rebound next season, so the contract isn’t an albatross yet.)

This fact means that small and mid-sized markets will stay away unless they can unload a bad contract. Considering how Prince Fielder has produced so far, it is safe to assume the Rangers will steer clear of any such deals.

Luckily for the Rangers, four big market teams need a shortstop–the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and possibly (depending on how they view Xander Bogaerts) Red Sox. But, none of these teams are in a prime situation to offer anything decent.

The Yankees’ best prospects are all at positions of need or future need–they have a number of good outfield prospects, but Ichiro Suzuki actually started games for them last year, which should indicate how dire their situation was and is. They also have Gary Sanchez, a promising catcher/first baseman currently blocked by Brian McCann, but he wouldn’t be available anyway– there may be a hole at catcher or first base in the near future anyway. *

Sep 17, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) dives around Oakland Athletics catcher Geovany Soto (17) to score during the top of the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are in win-now mode, but they have been unwilling to trade their best prospects, whether they be Noah Syndergaard or anyone else. While their bizzare/ puzzling/ laughable/embarrassing signing of Michael Cuddyer shows they have no idea how to value free agents  are in win-now mode, the team wouldn’t trade any of their most valuable pieces for an ugly contract. Even if they are fine with Andrus’ contract (unlikely, even for them), Troy Tulowitski is their first choice and the team wouldn’t give up the chance to acquire the best (when healthy) shortstop in baseball. The Mets are also devoid of power, so a weak-hitting shortstop addresses a positional need but not a skill-set want. Both needs would have to be satisfied to accept a long, cumulatively large contract. (Tulowitski fills both needs)

The Red Sox will probably stick with former top-prospect Bogaerts next year, which is the smart move to me. There is on reason to give up on a prospect of his caliber after one season.

Finally, the Dodgers have a hole at shortstop that is only temporary. Corey Seager, one of the top prospects in baseball, is in AA and plays the position. There is no incentive to add a long contract when a potentially better option is waiting in the wings, especially because they seem (kind of) set at second (Dee Gordon cooled down in the second half, but his speed is still extremely valuable). One option could be to have Seager play third while Andrus plays shortstop, but that’s less than ideal. There is no reason to move an excellent prospect off of the most valuable position in baseball in favor of a slaphitter, especially one coming off of a down season.

Essentially, Andrus, because of his contract, won’t bring any valuable pieces to Texas. Since the team won’t give him away, Andrus is likely to be a Ranger next season and years to come–for better or worse.

*McCann is currently entrenched as starting catcher, and Alex Rodriguez can no longer play 3rd base reliably. Rodriguez will either be released, forced to play first base, or entrenched as DH. McCann, when he becomes too old or too injured for catcher, will probably DH. Since Rodriguez will probably be cut/retired at that point, that leaves a hole at first and catcher. Sanchez can fill either spot. Even if McCann never leaves catching, the Yankees will need a first baseman soon anyway– there is no possible way the team will put up with Rodriguez past next season.