- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Rangers Lock Up Andrus

The Rangers have reportedly been discussing multi-year contract extensions with their many arbitration-eligible players this offseason, and yesterday they got one of those guys to agree to a deal. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported that Elvis Andrus has accepted a three-year contract worth somewhere in the $14-15 million range. The deal doesn’t include any option years.

Andrus was up for salary arbitration for the first time this offseason, so the new contract buys out all three of his arbitration years but no free agent years. The Rangers get some financial certainty through 2014 while Scott Boras still gets to take his young shortstop client out onto the open market at age 26, which could turn into a monster payday given his position.

We have yet to see the breakdown of the new contract, but Andrus had filed for $3.6 million through arbitration while the team countered with $2.65 million. Something along the lines of $3 million/$5 million/$7 million from 2012-2014 makes sense, give or take a few hundred grand each year (and possibly a signing bonus). Andrus has been worth ten wins in his three seasons and 4.5 wins in 2011 alone, so the Rangers are getting a significant discount even if settles in as a two-to-three win player. It’s very difficult not to like the deal for the club.

The arbitration process is still very archaic, and defense-first players always get the short end of the stick. Andrus has been one of the four best defensive shortstops in baseball over the last three seasons in terms of UZR (+19.2) and DRS (+28), but good luck explaining that to the impartial three-person panel. His .313 wOBA since breaking in ranks 19th out of 34 qualified shortstops, as his primary offensive value comes from putting the ball in play (career 13.1 K% and .312 BABIP), drawing walks (8.5 BB%), and stealing bases (102-for-135 and at least 32 per year). It’s just not a skillset that pays well during the six years of team control. Arbiters love homers and RBI and things like that.

That said, there is something to be said for being 23 years old and having the kind of financial security most people dream of having. Andrus will be very underpaid if we conservatively assume he’ll settle in as a three-win player and use the standard 40/60/80 arbitration pay scale (so $6 million/$9 million/$12 million), but like I said, that scale doesn’t work for defensive-first guys. He’s going to wind up at something like 20%/33%/45% of market value instead. Andrus was destined to underpaid unless he grew into some power over the next three years (11 career homers and a .073 ISO), but least now he’s pretty much set for life.

It’s worth mentioning that the Rangers do have Jurickson Profar in their system, and he’s generally considered the best shortstop prospect in the game. The 18-year-old posted a .397 wOBA with a dozen homers, 23 steals, and more walks (65) than strikeouts (63) in 516 plate appearances for the club’s Low-A affiliate in 2011, and his timetable suggests that he could step right in for Andrus after the 2014 season. Perhaps he’ll be able to debut at 20 like Andrus and allow the club to trade their incumbent shortstop for a significant return rather than let him walk as a free agent. That’s a long way off though, and prospects have a tendency to screw up long-term plans. Either way, both the Rangers and Andrus did pretty well with the new contract since arbitration still frowns upon those who live off their gloves and not their bats.