Mac Engel

On Andrus’ deal, the Rangers will get fleeced again

The Texas Rangers’ color scheme may as well be a white flag on top of another white flag, but amid a season where baseball’s best turn our team into diamond chum, Elvis Andrus has erased any and all concern that “that contract” is killing them.

The hashtag #ElectElvis has become a movement befitting a guy who has demonstrated he can hit in the second spot, and he merits distinction as one of the best at his position and an All-Star game appearance.

The Rangers stink but Elvis does not.

On Wednesday, Elvis was placed on paternity leave. It’s the first time in nine seasons with the club he has not been on the active roster.

“It says volumes for him,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said before the game. “That’s incredible. It has taken a new Ranger to do it.”

Banister was kidding about Daddy Elvis needing a Baby Elvis to be off the team for a single day.

“I think JD is negotiating right now,” Banister joked of the Rangers’ GM, Jon Daniels.

Know this: If Andrus’ baby is negotiating a deal to become a Ranger, JD is going to get crushed on this one, too.

Soon enough, Andrus, 28, will replace Adrian Beltre as the face of the Rangers and the most dominant voice in the clubhouse. All of this is happening as Andrus can think about becoming a free agent, too. His agent — Scott Boras — surely has plans.

The player you once wanted gone will soon enough have that opportunity to leave. Prepare yourself, Rangers fans, Andrus is going to be a free agent in the prime of his career.

For a few years, JD’s decision to give Andrus an eight-year, $120 million contract in April 2013 qualified as one of his worst deals. Then Shin-Soo Choo, another Boras guy, arrived and quietly announced, “I got this.”

Not to be lost in Andrus’ extension carefully crafted by Boras ’n friends is the player-controlled opt-out clause after the 2018 season. And, in case that doesn’t work, there is another player-controlled opt-out clause after the 2019 season.

This request should have been met with an immediate “LOL LOL.” When the Rangers committed to paying Andrus, he should not have had the option to opt out. It should not have even been part of the contract.

Soon enough his $15 million a year salary will look like a deal, and a GM who got duped once on this player will be duped yet again. It’s hard to see Andrus leaving the only big-league club he’s ever known, but it’s even more difficult to conceive his agent not beating up JD yet again on a deal.

Shame on Daniels for ever agreeing to one opt-out clause, let alone two. JD and the Rangers were only too glad to overpay for Andrus early and rather than be rewarded on that type of commitment to Andrus they will be punished for it next year.

After the 2018 season, Andrus will be 30 and we should expect he will opt out of a deal that made him the highest paid at his position when his play did not come close to that distinction.

He’s the second-highest paid shortstop, behind Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki, and ahead of Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy and San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford.

Unless the Rangers want Andrus to be exposed as a free agent and vulnerable to fleeing to the Yankees, Dodgers or some other big-market club, JD and owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will have no choice but to give their shortstop a bump.

As long as the deal does not prevent the team from adding another desired player, it’s fine. These sorts of things, however, tend to add up.

The reaction to Andrus’ original deal was that the club badly overpaid. For three years Andrus proved every single critic correct. He was a .264 hitter, and the team desperately wanted to — but could not — bench him.

Now those first three big-contract seasons are a faded memory, replaced by a .300 average and a campaign to put Andrus in the 2017 American League All-Star game. He is on pace to establish career highs in nearly every major offensive category.

He may never be a statistical giant at the position, but Andrus remains a durable player as well as an active, positive member of his community.

Andrus is not the reason this $178-million payroll team is battling the Oakland A’s for fourth place in the AL West.

It is also worth noting he’s doing most of his damage from the second spot in the batting order, a place the team was uneasy putting him after he thrived last season at the bottom of the lineup.

It took a while, but Elvis figured it all out. Off the field to on the field. Good for him for being a pro about all of it and reaching these levels. Good for the Rangers for seeing it through.

What he should not have is an opt-out after next season, but thanks to a GM, he does. Soon enough, JD will have no choice but to again overpay the Rangers’ next franchise player.

Well done, Scott Boras. You got ’em again.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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