Elvis Andrus isn’t required to decide whether he will opt out of his eight-year contract until shortly after the World Series, and he seems intent on adding a little bit of drama by taking his time before telling the Texas Rangers that he plans to return for 2019.
He wouldn’t make it official Monday before the opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels, even though he said the following:
“Of course, I’m coming back, man.”
He followed in short order by saying, “You have to wait to see if I’m joking or not.”
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The Rangers, though, are expecting their shortstop of the past 10 seasons to make it 11 after a season that was interrupted two months by a broken right forearm and then a month of trying to find his rhythm at the plate.
General manager Jon Daniels said that though he hasn’t had any formal discussions with Andrus or agent Scott Boras, the Rangers are planning for 2019 as if Andrus will be their shortstop.
“Just the way the season has played out, with the injury especially, I felt it was more headed that way,” Daniels said. “Hey, if he hits 15 home runs the rest of the way, I think he reserves his right to change his mind. But, yeah, with the injury and missing time that would have been my expectation.”
Andrus, 30, missed 59 games from April 13-June 18 after being struck by a pitch April 11 in the ninth inning of a loss to the Angels. It marked the first time in his career that he landed on the disabled list.
“That hurt me, for sure,” Andrus said.
He has been hit-and-miss at the plate since, and he entered Monday batting .266 with six home runs the season after hitting batting .297 and swatting 20 homers in what is regarded as the best season of his career.
Opting out seemed to be a possibility entering the season, though the slow free-agent market last off-season suggests that he might have difficulty matching the $58 million he is owed through 2022.
Andrus can also opt out of his contract after next season.
The Rangers don’t want him to leave, especially with the possibility that third baseman Adrian Beltre might retire after the season.
Andrus was answering questions about that subject and said that he wants Beltre to come back and play with him next season. Reporters seized on that to switch the subject to the opt-out clause.
“Where do you want me to go?” Andrus said. “I have to keep it interesting in here.”
The potential exists that the Rangers will lose a significant clubhouse presence if Beltre doesn’t return, and Andrus would seem to be the next in line to fill it. Catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder/designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo are also respected veterans in the clubhouse.
Andrus, though, has been doing his share of leading the past two seasons when Beltre has been out with injuries. Manager Jeff Banister said that Andrus doesn’t take much of a backseat when Beltre is healthy, and Andrus has been helping nurture all the young players who have been thrust into duty this season.
“It’s important for us to help them feel comfortable and to show up on the field every day and feel comfortable they can stay here,” Andrus said. “They’re all really good. You don’t need to tell them too much stuff. They know what they need to do, and they come every day to work hard. That’s the best thing you can ask.”
Contract decisions and leadership roles aside, the Rangers don’t want to see Andrus in another uniform.
It sounds like they won’t have to worry about that for 2019.
“Elvis is, in my opinion, a Ranger,” Banister said. “It wouldn’t be right to see him in another uniform.”