The rap on Elvis Andrus is he got rich, and that the $120 million changed him.
(Note to my boss: I would greatly appreciate this type of challenge).
Since signing the eight-year, $120 million contract with the Texas Rangers in April 2013, Andrus has not been the same guy. Or at least he has not been the same player. His numbers, nearly across the board, have dropped since his wallet grew. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it is peculiar and lends itself to all sorts of speculation.
So I asked — did the money change him?
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“I don’t think so,” he said. “The whole difference was the team changed a lot. It’s a lot different mentality when you are playing with a group of guys the same time all the time. And then from year to another year, it all changed.
“It’s a change you have to make because it’s not the same guys all the time. I hate to put excuses for it. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do, especially last year. I take that as a learned lesson.”
As excuses go, that’s pretty weak, but at least he acknowledges what we all see: He has not been worth it. As much as you may wish for it, however, the Rangers should not trade Elvis. He has been a good pro who showed too much for too long to think he’s worthy of a salary dump. He is just now entering the prime of his career.
One day after the Rangers announced that their best starting pitcher is likely out for the season, Andrus made his spring training debut with a swinging strikeout in his first at-bat.
Manager Jeff Banister insists someone in his clubhouse will have a career season, and if the Rangers have a prayer of being better than what so many of us fear, their starting shortstop must show us the money.
Right now, Andrus leads the Rangers in bad contracts, which currently is a tense battle between himself, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. If you want to put Leonys Martin in this conversation, feel free.
Andrus’ name was kicked around various trade rumors this off-season, including a move to the New York Yankees.
“That’s normal rumors,” he said. “It’s going to happen. Every year it’s going to happen. I really don’t pay attention to it. I love being in Texas.”
There is no way around this — the Rangers had it handed to them on this deal by agent Scott Boras. If Elvis is good, he can opt out in 2018 or 2019. If he is not so good, the Rangers are stuck. They wanted to keep him, and there was no other way to do it.
Andrus was never going to be Derek Jeter, but at 26 he has shown too much and is still too young to dismiss. The pitching staff needs his defense, but this great-glove, weak-bat routine will hamstring the Rangers if it continues.
A hitter making this type of money can’t be a bottom-of-the-order guy. The Rangers can find plenty of light-hitting shortstops with great range at a cheap cost.
What he did last year bordered on thievery. Statistically, he regressed in nearly every single offensive category, including being caught stealing 15 times, the third highest figure in baseball.
When people look at the Rangers last season, Elvis was a “favorite” to ridicule. And he was one of the approximately two regulars who magically avoided the disabled list, too.
“I think it’s part of the game. They are going to pull at any link,” he said. “I really don’t worry about it. Last year was a tough year not only for me but the whole organization.”
When the season went south, his play and his approach were both questioned. Elvis had all the makings of the guy who got paid and almost immediately lost the desire to keep at it.
Psychologically, it’s understandable to no longer feel the push when someone hands you a guaranteed $120 million. But that is the part about being a pro that Elvis previously embodied.
Don’t blame him for the money because that’s the business. Blame him for not performing to the levels he himself set.
This guy is better than the version he showed in 2014, or ’13. He was a major contributor to teams that went to the World Series. It’s all there, he just needs find it again.
He lost 15 pounds in the off-season, changed his diet, and he looks great.
Maybe the money did change him, but he can change it back, and the Rangers should not trade him.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog