Editor's Note: We continue our look at 10 issues facing the club as it approaches the start of spring training.
Today's issue: What does Elvis Andrus' future hold?
This latest spring issue won't necessarily be decided while the club is in Surprise. But it's something the front office must consider going forward.
Andrus has two years left on his contract before he becomes a free agent. He's a Scott Boras client, meaning the odds are good that he'll want to at least test the free-agent market. He was a guest on The Ben & Skin Show on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM this week and it sure seemed like he was headed toward seeing what his value was on the open market. If his production stays at its current levels -- despite a lack of power -- Andrus could command top dollar in that 2014 free agent class. And with Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings at a bargain until he hits arbitration and then free agency, the Rangers aren't likely to get into any bidding wars with Boras on Andrus.
That's not to say the club doesn't want him back. They do. But they're in a position where it needs to be a hometown discount of sorts to do it. Now is the time to find out if that's at all possible. How badly does Andrus want to stay? If he wants to be a Ranger, now is the time to start discussing it. If he doesn't, he could certainly be an important trade piece for the club.
Andrus will arrive in Surprise fresh off playing 40 games in winter ball in Venezuela and will participate in the World Baseball Classic. He played 158 games last season, the most of his career, and hit .286 with three homers and 62 RBIs. He was a versatile No. 2 hitter, tying for the league-lead with 17 sacrifice bunts, and had 21 stolen bases (the fewest of his career). Andrus hit .350 with runners in scoring position, fifth-best in the AL.
He made his usual assortment of highlight-reel plays in the field but did a better job on the routine stuff, too. He was seventh among AL qualifiers with a .976 fielding percentage and had just three errors in 150 starts at shortstop, nine fewer errors than the previous season. He even had a 54-game errorless streak from mid-August 2011 through April 2012.
It's Andrus' complete game that makes him so valuable, and he and Adrian Beltre make up one of the best left sides of any infield in the big leagues. But what to do with him long-term is a decision that will face the Rangers soon. They weren't willing to part with him for just anyone -- not even Justin Upton -- this offseason. But if there's a team that needs a top-flight shortstop at the deadline, perhaps the timing will be right to get good value for Andrus. That, of course, is if the Rangers are in position to trade Andrus. If they're contending, they may not want to part with him at all. But the issue could come up again after the 2013 season, too.
How well Profar performs this spring and then how he does either at Triple-A Round Rock or in the big leagues this season can impact that decision. How the infield lines up and Andrus' future in it will be a discussion point all season.