Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rangers Reward Andrus

Shortly after former MVPs Buster Posey and Justin Verlander joined baseball's ever-growing $100 million club, Elvis Andrus' received a brand-spanking-new eight-year, $120 million contract expension that puts him in the same rarefied air as the aforementioned duo along with Evan Longoria, Josh Hamilton, and David Wright.  Here are five reasons why Andrus does not deserve that kind of cash.
  1. With just 14 career home runs, a .354 slugging percentage and .079 ISO, Andrus has no power to speak of. In 2010 he failed to go deep and compiled only 18 extra base hits in 674 plate appearances. Not surprisingly, he has yet to earn an intentional walk in over 2,600 career trips to the dish
  2. He's regressed as a basestealer. As a rookie he stole 33 bases in 39 attempts (84.6 percent), but last year swiped just 21 bases in 31 attempts (67.7 percent--barely above the break-even point). Considering that speed and defense--his two greatest skills--deteriorate with age, Andrus is likely to suffer a dramatic drop-off in value once he reaches his early 30s
  3. He strikes out a good amount for somebody with zero pop, whiffing 96 times in 2010 and again in 2012. That's way too many whiffs for a Juan Pierre-type and explains why he's failed to bat above .286 despite his blazing speed
  4. He's basically Erick Aybar. Aybar is signed to a five-year, $40 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels
  5. Andrus is a two-time All-Star, but his trophy case is pretty empty. He's never received an MVP vote, won a Gold Glove, or led the league in any significant batting category
Andrus is a nice complementary piece on a winning team, but the Rangers were crazy to outbid themselves and hand him a Jose Reyes/Carl Crawford sum of money. At 24, Andrus is still young enough that he has room to keep developing, but I just can't see him emerging as a Reyes or Derek Jeter type who commands $15 million a year. Maybe Texas thinks otherwise, that his strong Spring Training (.404/.456/.596) indicates a breakout is on the horizon?

I believe the real reason Texas locked him up is because the Rangers are a team in transition. With Ian Kinsler declining, Nelson Cruz embroiled in PED controversy, Adrian Beltre getting old, and Hamilton, Michael Young, and Mike Napoli all gone, the Rangers crave the kind of young talent and optimism that Andrus provides. They see him as a bridge to the future, a source of consistency and stability for a roster that is about to undergo major turnover in the next few years. They're hoping Andrus embraces his role not just as a team leader, but as a winner. 

Still, that shouldn't boost Andrus's price tag north of nine figures. I get that Texas has money to burn, but the whole point of extending young players before they reach free agency is to secure their services at a discount, to pay less than what you expect they'll demand when they hit the open market in return for the security that a long-term contract provides. Andrus was slated to become a free agent at the age of 27, in the heart of a player's prime earning years, but even then I'm not so sure he could have fetched as much money.

But we'll never know.

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