Elvis Andrus Rumors

Rosenthal’s Latest: Rangers, Vargas, O’s, Scherzer

Let's take a look at the latest from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who's out with a new column of rumors from around the majors:

  • A trade of second baseman Ian Kinsler or shortstop Elvis Andrus increasingly looks "inevitable" given the Rangers' crowded infield. "Some team is going to get a good middle infielder from the Rangers. The only question is which one," Rosenthal writes. It's unlikely, however, that the club packages infielder Jurickson Profar with other young players in a deal for a star such as David Price or Giancarlo Stanton. Rosenthal's sources say the Rangers want to keep their farm system stocked.
  • Matt Garza's elbow shouldn't scare off potential suitors. Though he missed much of 2012 with an elbow issue, officials with both the Cubs and Rangers tell Rosenthal that the righty wasn't treated for elbow issues at all in 2013.
  • There's mutual interest in a new deal between Southern California native Jason Vargas and the Angels, but Rosenthal's sources say the team is already examining other options and could move on from the left-hander if negotiations drag. Vargas may ultimately have to leave money on the table if he wants to remain with the club.
  • The Orioles are at least considering options for a backup catcher, as Matt Wieters managed just a .628 OPS against lefties last season. Rosenthal notes that the O's could seek to move Wieters and target a replacement such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as Wieters is unlikely to agree to an extension. However, trading him now would be selling low.
  • Baltimore will also have to consider how they'll approach J.J. Hardy's impending free agency. Though Rosenthal writes that the Orioles' front office eventually aims to move Manny Machado to shortstop, it also views Hardy, who becomes a free agent after next season, as critical to the club.
  • Executives from other teams are surprised at rumors that the Tigers are listening on Max Scherzer. Shipping Scherzer elsewhere and then losing Anibal Sanchez to an injury would be a major hit to the team's rotation.
  • The Diamondbacks continue to wait for a reply from Dave Duncan on whether he will take their pitching coach job. 

Rangers Notes: Profar, Andrus, Kinsler, McCann

Earlier today, Steve Adams profiled Rangers free agent Nelson Cruz.  The outfielder, who missed 50 games in 2013 thanks to his ties to the Biogenesis clinic, should find a healthy market this winter with many teams in need of offense.  Ultimately, Steve writes that Cruz could land a three-year, $39MM deal in free agency.  Here's the latest out of Arlington..

  • The Rangers have let other teams know they are willing to at least talk about one of their middle infielders — Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, or Jurickson Profar — in any trade discussions that come up this offseason, writes MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.  Industry sources say the club doesn't feel a sense of urgency to move any of the three, but they're keeping an open mind as they have other areas of need to address.  Texas has also made it clear to other teams they are not trying to dump Kinsler's salary and they won't pick up any part of the contract in order to facilitate a deal.
  • After re-signing catcher Geovany Soto yesterday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels stated to reporters that Soto was expected to be the team's primary catcher in 2014. However, Brian McCann's agent, B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management, tells Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he doesn't think the signing precludes McCann from going to the Rangers. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest pointed out yesterday (on Twitter) that Daniels made similar comments after signing Soto last season before going out and signing A.J. Pierzynski.
  • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News argues that the Soto signing actually makes a McCann signing more likely for the Rangers, as they now have a competent catcher to split time with McCann. Grant writes that the best way for McCann to match or surpass Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM deal is to recognize the health risks associated with catching and accept a role in which he could start 70 games or so behind the plate plus another 70-80 games at DH.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Rosenthal On Nats, Scherzer, Phillies, Price, Rangers

The Nationals are looking to add an "elite" starting pitcher via trade, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and they're in luck, as both Max Scherzer and David Price have been rumored to be available this winter. Rosenthal explains his reasons behind believing that Scherzer could be a better fit, highlighted by the fact that Nats GM Mike Rizzo drafte Scherzer in the first round when he was the Diamondbacks' scouting director. Rosenthal's sources maintain that the Tigers aren't shopping Scherzer at this point but rather just listening to offers. Here's more from a jam-packed column from Rosenthal…

  • The Phillies have kicked around the idea of trading for Price, but it's unlikely to happen. The Phils would likely have to include top prospect Jesse Biddle in a potential package and perhaps Domonic Brown as well. Also, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recognizes that his club has multiple needs and that he will need to make multiple additions rather than going "all-in" on one big splash like Price or free agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
  • While many will argue that Tim Lincecum's deal doesn't impact the free agent markte for starting pitchers because it was the Giants paying to keep one of their own, Rosenthal points out that other starters and their agents will argue the direct opposite — "that the Lincecum contract was merely the outgrowth of supply-and-demand economics." In particular, he feels that it hurts the Pirates in their quest to retain A.J. Burnett. Rosenthal wonders how the Bucs can possibly retain Burnett after Lincecum got $17.5MM per year when they didn't even want to offer Burnett a $14.1MM qualifying offer.
  • The Rangers are once again pondering their infield logjam and whether or not to trade one of Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler. Kinsler could also be moved to first, though it may be less appealing that moving Kinsler and his salary ($57MM through 2017). Kinsler's contract makes him the easier of the two to trade. Figuring out the middle infield and securing some salary relief could be the key to the Rangers' offseason, he adds.
  • The Mariners consider right-handed pop their biggest need, and Rosenthal wonders if they'll take a second run at Mike Napoli, who they tried to land last offseason.


Elvis Andrus Clears Waivers

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has cleared waivers, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Knobler adds that despite the fact that Andrus is technically eligible to be traded, the Rangers have no intention of dealing the 24-year-old.

Andrus signed an eight-year, $120MM extension prior to the season, though it's possible the deal will be much shorter than that, as he received a pair opt-out clauses that allow him to elect free agency following the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Opting out after the 2018 season would effectively make his contract a four-year, $62MM extension. Opting out after 2019 would make it a five-year, $77MM extension. Were he pass on both opt-outs, Andrus would be guaranteed an additional $124.475MM beyond this season.

Andrus has seen his numbers decline dramatically in 2013, as he's hitting just .255/.317/.306 with one homer. He remains a premium defender at shortstop and a terror on the basepaths though, as evidenced by his 30 steals in 34 attempts. Andrus joins a growing list of players to have cleared waivers, though he is arguably the unlikeliest of the bunch to be traded.


Rangers Willing To Listen On Anyone

WEDNESDAY: Even the newly-acquired Matt Garza could be in play for the Rangers, tweets Rosenthal.  He notes that as they aggressively seek offense, it's not unusual for the Rangers to make creative proposals.

TUESDAY: The Rangers are willing to listen on anyone, report Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, including shortstop Elvis Andrus.  The Rangers have not have any substantive trade conversations involving Andrus, however, cautions Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.  The team is known to be aggressively seeking a bat, especially given the possibility of Nelson Cruz being suspended. Bowden says they're focused more on outfielders than DH types.

At .250/.310/.289 in 458 plate appearances, the 24-year-old Andrus has not done much offensively this year.  In theory, the Rangers could trade him and replace him with 20-year-old rookie Jurickson Profar.  Andrus signed an eight-year, $120MM extension with the Rangers in April, which includes opt-out clauses after the 2018 and '19 seasons as well as a 2023 vesting option that becomes a player option upon a trade.  The Cardinals would seem to be a logical fit for Andrus.


AL West Notes: Andrus, Luhnow

Earlier today, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explored a hypothetical swap of super-prospects: Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. Even if one were to prefer the upside of Taveras to the floor of Profar, Cameron says, the present value of Profar to the middle-infield-hungry Cards tilts clearly in favor of such a deal for St. Louis. For the Rangers, though, Taveras is not quite as clean a fit, as the club would presumably need to move Nelson Cruz to first. And giving up Profar now could hurt the team's chances of landing another hypothetical trade target: Giancarlo Stanton. If Texas asked for the Cardinals to kick in something more to sweeten the deal, however, it would begin to look less attractive to St. Louis. Thus, while St. Louis GM John Mozeliak says he'd have to consider such a deal (Twitter link), Cameron concludes that it is unlikely to materialize. 

  • MLBTR has learned of some additional provisions contained in Elvis Andrus's recent extension, each of which would figure in if the Rangers ever looked to trade the shortstop. In addition to a limited no-trade clause, Andrus would obtain full no-trade protection for the balance of the contract if he is traded at any point. Further, the previously reported vesting club option for 2023 would instead become a player option if Andrus is with a different team when the contract expires in 2022 (assuming, of course, that the deal has not already terminated via one of its opt-out clauses.) The potential club option and player option both vest upon the same 2021-22 plate appearance thresholds.
  • The Astros, firmly in rebuilding mode, may well have the right baseball operations leadership to make it successful. Houston GM Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' scouting director from 2005-11, is credited with drafting more 2013 Opening Day major leaguers (21) than any other scouting director. Baseball America's Conor Glassey broke down Luhnow's many successes, which make up a sizeable portion of St. Louis's current (and likely future) roster.  

Rangers To Extend Elvis Andrus

As Rangers GM Jon Daniels explained, the club has officially agreed to "an unusual deal" with 24-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus. The deal is nominally an eight-year, $120MM extension, bringing the team's total commitment to Andrus to $131.275MM over the next ten seasons. But that is far from the entire story.

Andrus's previous three-year, $14.4MM contract expires after 2014. His new deal provides that he will receive $15MM for the following six years (2015-2020) and $14MM for the final two seasons (2021-22). Andrus also received a $2MM signing bonus. 

However, the contract also includes two opt-out clauses that give Andrus the right to become a free agent after either the 2018 or the 2019 season. If Andrus opts out at the first possible chance, as the club anticipates, then the deal will effectively revert to a four-year, $62MM extension. 

In effect, then, the Rangers have ensured control over Andrus for the next six years. The Rangers now have an enviable surplus of middle infield talent locked up with Andrus, Jurickson Profar and Ian Kinsler all under team control through at least the 2018 season. (The Rangers have a team option over Kinsler for 2018, and Profar would not be eligible for free agency until 2019 at the earliest.) The Rangers could move Kinsler to first base or outfield next season, or look to trade him this offseason. Of course, the club could also consider dealing Profar for prime talent in the outfield or rotation.

While Texas has obtained security and flexibility up the middle, the opt-out clauses also add risk, as Andrus gets two chances at a walk year. In essence, if Texas has six years of control over Andrus, then the player has control over the final four seasons. Should Andrus suffer injury or see his abilities slip, he could decide not to opt out and leave the Rangers on the hook for an additional $58MM over 2019-2022. 

There is one other (perhaps unlikely) major scenario that the contract contemplates. If Andrus chooses not to opt out but remains an effective everyday player, the deal could expand by another year and another $15MM. Here's how: Should Andrus stay in Texas and make either 550 plate appearances in 2022, or 1,100 appearances combined in 2021-22, then a $15MM team option vests for 2023. But, if Andrus reaches those PA targets and instead plays out the contract with another club (presumably as a result of a trade or waiver claim), then a $15MM player option vests for 2023. 

The possibility of a 2023 player option vesting is one potential deterrent to a future trade involving Andrus. The extension also provides Andrus with direct protection through a ten-team, partial no-trade clause that kicks in for 2016. Also, if Andrus is traded, he receives full no-trade protection (against his new team) over any subsequent deals for the duration of the contract.

Andrus

As MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows, Andrus' contract is unprecedented for a player of his type. His $120MM guarantee in new money is $1MM more than the $119MM that was guaranteed to Troy Tulowitzki following his last contract extension, but Andrus' bat isn't nearly as potent. While Tulowitzki's overall contract is still larger (he signed that extension midway through a six-year, $31MM contract), Scott Boras has managed to secure the largest extension ever for a shortstop in terms of new money. Indeed, despite being years away from the open market, Andrus bested the $106MM guarantee achieved by Jose Reyes in free agency last offseason. 

Andrus has a career .274/.342/.352 batting line and just 14 homers in 2595 plate appearances, but the Rangers are clearly paying him based on his elite defense and baserunning. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs Andrus as having saved 29 runs with his defense from 2009-12, while The Fielding Bible has him at 23. Fangraphs ranks his baserunning ability second only to Michael Bourn over that same four-year stretch.

Boras typically encourages his clients to test free agency, but the Andrus deal marks the second time in the past three weeks that a Boras client has signed a long-term extension before hitting the open market. Carlos Gomez recently signed a three-year $24MM contract Brewers despite already being controlled through the 2013 season. Perhaps frustration over free agents Kyle Lohse and, to a lesser extent, Michael Bourn this offseason have prompted a change in Boras' philosophy.

Andrus was the subject of trade rumors all offseason as a result of Profar's presence in the minor leagues and the Rangers' heavy interest in Justin Upton. General manager Jon Daniels maintained all along, however, that he refused to include Andrus in a deal. The new contract serves as an exclamation point on Texas' faith that Andrus will continue to be an elite defender whose offensive game will grow.

This is the second extension of the calendar year for the Rangers, who inked Opening Day starter Matt Harrison to a five-year, $55MM deal in January.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were nearing an agreement. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report an agreement had been reached. MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan added details surrounding the opt-out clause and option year. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the deal would include two out clauses (Twitter link). Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweeted Andrus's signing bonus and annual salary, and reported on the official press conference. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


AL Notes: Rodriguez, Andrus, Kazmir, Snyder

The changing nature of free agency has been a hot topic of late, as MLBTR noted earlier today. A series of high-profile extensions this spring have reinforced an apparent new trend towards teams retaining their best young players with long-term deals. As Larry Stone of the Seattle Times posits, this trend also increases the importance of scouting and developing young players, with MLB's recent spending limits potentially leveling the playing field between large and small-market clubs.

  • Alex Rodriguez's record-breaking 2007 contract extension with the Yankees was re-visited in a piece on Saturday from David Waldstein of the New York Times. Waldstein reports on the events that ensued after Rodriguez exercised the opt-out clause in his contract, with the announcement infamously coming in the midst of what turned out to be the final game of the World Series. After receiving counsel from people ranging from Mariano Rivera to Warren Buffett, Rodriguez apologized to Hal and Hank Steinbrenner to pave the way to a new deal with the Yanks. The unprecedented contract included a $265MM salary guarantee over ten seasons, a $10MM signing bonus, and career home run milestone payments of up to $30MM. With Rodriguez now suffering from some combination of ineffectiveness, injury, and intrigue, Waldstein writes, New York may be exploring a variety of ways to get out from under the deal.
  • An opt-out clause could play a big role in another potential ten-year commitment: the recently-inked eight-year, $120MM extension between Elvis Andrus and the Rangers. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains, the deal's opt-out clause is likely to turn the Andrus extension into a four-year, $60MM deal. While this seems to be a big concession by Texas, Rosenthal says it was necessary to lock up four of the Scott Boras client's free agent years. The club will pursue insurance to protect itself in the event that Andrus does not exercise the opt-out clause due to injury. The deal also gives the Rangers plenty of flexibility to take advantage of super-prospect Jurickson Profar, either in their lineup (at second base) or via trade.
  • While still not conforming his new deal, Andrus commented today on his relationship with Boras, as reported by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Discussing his agent's penchant for testing the market, Andrus said: "We're the boss. I know everybody thinks that about Scott but it's different if you're the one in that position. He works for us. I know he tries to get the best deal that he can but it comes down to my choice and what's better for me and my family."
  • Scott Kazmir appears close to coming all the way back to the big leagues after being activated by the Indians, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. In a corresponding move, the club optioned left-hander Nick Hagadone to Triple-A. Kazmir, who will now receive a $1MM base salary after initially signing a minor league deal, may still have to wait to actually make an appearance after straining his ab. As the Indians noted on Twitter, today's transaction allows the club to back-date a Kazmir DL stint if he is not ready to go.
  • The Red Sox are signing infielder Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal, as first reported by Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Alex Speier of WEEI.com confirmed (via Twitter) that Snyder, who was recently released by the Rangers, has signed with Boston and is headed to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Elvis Andrus Extension Reactions

Earlier today it was reported that the Rangers and Elvis Andrus have agreed to an eight-year extension that will keep Andrus in Texas through the 2022 season and pay him $120MM in new money ($131.275MM total). Here's a look at some media reactions to the game's newest nine-figure player…

  • Extensions will continue to become more and more frequent as the average team revenue from national TV contracts will jump from $25MM to $52MM in 2014, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal writes that it will be interesting to see how this affects the Yankees' negotiations with Robinson Cano, who, like Andrus, is represented by Scott Boras.
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington post tweets that the Andrus contract likely "throws a pipe bomb" into the Nationals' negotiations with Ian Desmond.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs calls Andrus one of the game's best examples of how defense and baserunning can make up for lack of power, and notes that the deal means Jurickson Profar is now the second baseman of the future in Texas. Ian Kinsler will likely move to first base, the outfield or another team, in Cameron's mind.

Rangers, Elvis Andrus Nearing Deal

Shortstop Elvis Andrus and the Rangers are "close" on an eight-year deal that could be worth $120MM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). Andrus is a Scott Boras client, as shown in MLBTR's Agency Database.

Andrus, 24, has hit .275/.342/.353 in four big-league seasons, but he also provides significant and consistent value with his fielding and his baserunning. He had his best offensive year so far in 2012, hitting .286/.349/.378 in 711 plate appearances. Andrus is currently in the second year of a three-year, $14.4MM contract that covers all three of what would have been his arbitration-eligible seasons. He is currently set to make $4.8MM in 2013.

If Andrus were to reach agreement on a new deal with the Rangers, it would cap a span of just a few days in which Justin Verlander, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright and Paul Goldschmidt all also signed big-money deals to remain with their current teams. An Andrus mega-contract would be somewhat novel, in that position players with his lack of offensive firepower (he has virtually no home run power and has yet to post an OPS+ higher than 91) rarely get such deals, but Andrus' youth and fielding ability make him a very valuable commodity.

An eight-year deal would put Andrus in line for free agency at the age of 33, an idea that isn't appealing to the shortstop's camp, a source tells Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram (on Twitter).  However, a deal of this magnitude could put those concerns to rest.

The Rangers also have top prospect and fellow shortstop Jurickson Profar at Triple-A, and it's unclear how an Andrus extension might affect his future. The Rangers could keep them both and use Profar at second base, with Ian Kinsler, who is signed through 2017, moving to DH or first base.

Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels worked out one other extension this winter when he inked Matt Harrison to a five-year, $55MM deal, according to MLBTR's Extension Tracker.  Texas has also shown that they aren't afraid to hammer out a contract after Opening Day as they gave Ian Kinsler his five-year, $75MM deal in early April last year.