Elvis Andrus did everything possible Tuesday to avoid talking about his new contract.
He hit in the batting cages. He participated in the team’s Final Four pool (he drew Syracuse). He lounged around on the clubhouse couches and chatted up his teammates.
Finally, the Texas Rangers shortstop stopped by his locker and shared his thoughts.
So, how’re you doing, Elvis?
“I’m still in the big leagues, man,” Andrus said.
And will be, perhaps through 2022, with a contract extension that could pay him $131 million over the next 10 years but at least $60 million through 2018 when an opt-out clause is triggered.
“That’d be awesome,” he said. “As a player, that’s what you’re looking for, to stay with the team you love and the one that gave you an opportunity.”
At a press conference in Arlington on Thursday, a grateful Andrus told reporters, “I love to play here. This is my family. I’m not going to rest and sleep until I get that World Series ring. As a player, I think of myself as a winner. If I don’t get this city and community a ring, I won’t sleep. We got so close. As a player, that’s why you want to get better, prove to your teammates that you’re a winner.”
It’s pretty clear he’s a winner, but also an elite shortstop who at 24 has not yet reached his prime and who already ranks in the upper echelon of players at his position. Jose Reyes may be better. Troy Tulowitzki has more power, but can’t stay healthy. Derek Jeter’s in decline. Starlin Castro’s on the way up.
But Elvis is in that mix, and he’s not leaving the building any time soon.
It’s rare for a Scott Boras client to sign with his current team rather than test the open market. General manager Jon Daniels called the deal “unusual” because it will allow Andrus security but also the ability to opt out after 2018 or 2019 to land one last mega-deal after he turns 30.
“We’re the boss,” Andrus said. “I know everyone thinks that about Scott, but he’s always going to try to get you the best deal you can get, but in the end it comes down to my choice and what’s best for me and my family.”
Andrus had planned to spend Thursday with his family on the team’s off day.
“Yeah,” sniffed teammate David Murphy, “taking ‘em shopping.”
The Rangers can do some shopping of their own now with other pieces.
Andrus is about as good as it gets and much, much better than Jurickson Profar, the 20-year-old youngster who’s one of the top prospects in all of baseball and who has been tabbed as Andrus’ successor.
Now not so much.
Profar’s more likely to become second baseman Ian Kinsler’s successor because the Rangers now have locked up Andrus for the bulk of his career and can comfortably watch Profar develop this season at Triple-A Round Rock.
With Andrus secured, Texas has options.
It can shop Profar or Kinsler for front-line pitching — perhaps Tampa Bay’s David Price, who becomes a free agent after next season and might be the last remaining ace available who hasn’t yet signed a long-term deal like Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez and very soon Dodgers ace/slugger Clayton Kershaw.
Or Texas can call up Profar and use him in a utility role for a team that could use another solid switch-hitter in the lineup.
Or Texas can shift Profar to second base — which some scouts consider his more natural position — and move Kinsler to first if Mitch Moreland struggles this season, or to one of the corner outfield spots because Murphy and Nelson Cruz become free agents after this year.
Either the Rangers pulled a coup for a charismatic shortstop who’s a budding star, albeit one without much power, and who’s perfect in the clubhouse or Boras hoodwinked them by landing a power hitter’s contract for a slap-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop. I’d call it the former since the deal, if Kinsler moves to first, could someday give Texas All-Stars at every infield position, and elite shortstops are difficult to find.
In either case, it’s a win-win situation although Kinsler might not agree. Kinsler is a three-time All-Star who last year agreed to a five-year, $75 million deal and isn’t thrilled with switching positions.
When asked in the offseason to consider a move to first base, Kinsler declined.
Why? “I felt I’m a second baseman,” he told me Tuesday.
Kinsler did call Andrus’ contract “much-deserved” but knows he’ll have a target on his back as the new player that could be holding back Profar.
Is that a distraction?
“Now it is,” Kinsler joked as in that very minute, “but no, it’s not a distraction at all.”
Not in April. Check back in July.