April 1, 2013

Rangers facing decisions after locking up Elvis Andrus

Club brass are now faced with how to juggle the All-Star shortstop, Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar.

Elvis Andrus is going to be the Texas Rangers’ shortstop into the foreseeable future. Whether that’s for six more years or the next 10 is uncertain.

So, too, are the futures of second baseman Ian Kinsler and top prospect Jurickson Profar.

Andrus and the Rangers have agreed to an eight-year, $120 million extension that includes a vesting option for a ninth year and clause that will allow Andrus to opt out of the deal after four years, according to a baseball source. The general assumption had been that Andrus would test free agency after next season.

The extension is to begin after Andrus’ current contract expires in 2014, so at the very least he will be the Rangers’ shortstop through 2018. If he honors the full length of the contract — which the Rangers are not expecting — Andrus will make $131.275 million over the next 10 years.

General manager Jon Daniels and Andrus’ agent, Scott Boras, declined comment Monday. The source, though, said that the Andrus camp was uncomfortable with an eight-year extension with no opt-out clause because he would hit free agency at 33, if the option were to vest, as a 13-year veteran.

A second source said that Andrus underwent a physical on the Rangers’ off day following their 8-2 season-opening loss Sunday night. A news conference announcing the deal could be held Thursday at Rangers Ballpark.

But the full effect of the deal, which includes a $2 million signing bonus, won’t be known for some time.

As the roster is constructed, Kinsler and Andrus are locked up as the Rangers’ double-play combination through 2017, when Kinsler’s five-year, $80 million deal will expire if the club option for 2018 isn’t exercised.

The Rangers floated the idea of moving Kinsler to first base in the off-season to create an opening for Profar, baseball’s top prospect, at second base. Kinsler, though, informed club brass that he didn’t want to switch positions in the first year of his new deal.

Profar was optioned to Triple A Round Rock on Sunday so that he can play every day and continue his development, and the Rangers opened the season with All-Stars Kinsler and Andrus up the middle.

A position switch for Kinsler, a three-time All-Star, or a trade of Profar to acquire premium proven big-league talent both seem feasible.

The Rangers will see outfielders David Murphy and Nelson Cruz hit free agency after this season, barring another extension. Daniels generally prefers to not negotiate during the regular season, and Cruz and Murphy are expecting to test the open market.

Kinsler could be a candidate to take over one of those spots if neither returns for next season, and first base would become a possibility again if Mitch Moreland struggles with his first opportunity to be a lineup regular.

Profar would step into the lineup at second base, where he would show more range defensively than Kinsler. Most scouts consider Andrus, twice an All-Star, to be a better defensive shortstop than Profar, but say that the switch-hitting Profar will become a more productive hitter.

The Rangers would prefer to see Profar become a star in Arlington. They declined to include him in off-season trade proposals with Tampa Bay for All-Star right-hander James Shields and with Arizona for All-Star outfielder Justin Upton.

Two other All-Stars, though, might tempt the Rangers to include Profar in a trade package should they become available.

The cash-strapped Rays will have difficulty re-signing reigning Cy Young winner David Price, who can become a free agent after next season, and could choose to ship him away for a package of prospects, as they did with Shields.

Miami, which unloaded the majority of its star players to Toronto in November, has one of the game’s top sluggers in right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. He would be an upgrade over Cruz, and Profar would have to be included in a deal for the young slugger.

The decisions on Kinsler and Profar, though being widely speculated, aren’t likely to be made anytime soon. But something will have to budge with Andrus now locked up for at least the next six seasons.

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