Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus addressed the opt-out clause in his contract with reporters yesterday, strongly suggesting that he doesn’t plan on testing free agency this winter (link via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). Andrus, 30, plainly stated that he is “for sure” coming back to the Rangers next season before backpedaling a bit and emphasizing that no final decision will be made until the offseason.
It’s not much of a surprise to hear Andrus suggest he’ll forgo the opt-out provision in his eight-year, $120MM contract. As I noted last week when running through the opt-outs around the league, Clayton Kershaw is the only player with an opt-out clause in this year’s free-agent class who can be considered likely to opt out. While Andrus had the next-best case, his chances of opting out are lowered by the fact that he has a second opt-out clause in his contract following the 2019 campaign.
Had Andrus performed at a level commensurate with his 2016-17 output — combined .299/.348/.457 with 28 homers and 49 steals in 1257 plate appearances — there’d have been a strong chance he’d opt out of the remaining four years and $58MM. He enjoyed a strong start to the season for the first couple of weeks but then missed just under seven weeks of action after being hit by a pitch and sustaining a fractured elbow.
Since returning, Andrus’ production hasn’t matched his previous levels, as some may have expected given the nature of his injury. Andrus was hitting .327/.426/.500 through his first 61 plate appearances this year but has stumbled to a .253/.293/.365 slash in 307 PAs since returning. He’s made some improvements since the All-Star break, but it’d still be a stretch to imagine him topping $58MM in free agency this winter — especially considering he’d surely be hit with a qualifying offer upon opting out. (Were he to walk away from four years and $58MM, the Rangers would surely feel confident he’d do the same if presented with a one-year offer worth around $18MM.)
Andrus can return for a guaranteed $15MM in 2019 and then forgo the remaining $43MM on his contract in the event that he has a better season at the plate. At that point, agent Scott Boras could pitch him as a quality defensive shortstop who has had three strong offensive seasons in his past four years, with the lone disappointment coming after suffering a fairly notable elbow injury that impacted his swing. And, should Andrus incur additional injuries or see his struggles at the plate continue, he’ll have the safety net of a fairly hefty three-year guarantee on which to fall back.