The Texas Rangers made the three-year contract with Elvis Andrus official on Wednesday, and both the player and the club were pleased they don't have to worry about arbitration hearings in the future.
"For us to get him secured for three years meant a lot to the team and Elvis," said assistant general manager Thad Levine, the club's main representative in negotiations with Andrus' agent, Scott Boras. "It worked out perfectly for both sides. We all believe his best seasons are ahead of him. We're excited to see how his future seasons unfold."
The deal is worth $14.4 million, and runs through Andrus' entire arbitration-eligible period. He'll be a free agent after the 2014 season. But Levine said the club has identified Andrus as part of the "core" and wants to continue negotiations for a longer-term deal in the future.
"We hope he's a Texas Ranger for years to come," Levine said on a conference call with reporters announcing the deal. "We've expressed that to him and will continue to do so. I don't think signing him to a three-year deal precludes us from agreeing to a longer deal and we'll work to do that."
Andrus gets a $750,000 signing bonus and salaries of $2,375,000 this year, $4.8 million in 2013 and $6,475,000 in 2014.
Andrus, who is reporting to spring training nearly a week before the required date, said he's glad to have the security of the three-year deal and can focus on what happens on the field. Andrus feels he's improved his game in his three years in the majors, but knows he can get even better.
"I'm still learning every day," Andrus said. "I think my best years are coming. I'm getting stronger. I get to know more about myself and improve my offense and defense. I'm trying to get better every year."
Andrus, 23, hit a career-best .279 in 2011, while also collecting the most runs (96), hits (164) and RBIs (60) in his three-year career. Andrus had 37 stolen bases, fifth-most in the AL and has three consecutive seasons of 30 or more stolen bases.
Andrus also leads all big league shortstops in putouts (748) and is second in total chances (2,026) and games (440). He was promoted to the majors as the starting shortstop in 2009 despite never playing a game in Triple-A. He finished second in the AL rookie of the year voting that season. He has started in all 33 of the Rangers' playoff games the past two seasons and is the club's all-time postseason leader in stolen bases with nine and tied for first with Ian Kinsler in hits at 36.
Andrus was acquired by Texas as part of the Mark Teixeira trade in July 2007. A season and a half later, the Rangers thought highly enough of Andrus that they asked Michael Young to move from shortstop to third base the season after Young won a Gold Glove at the position.
Andrus has been an integral part of the young group that has helped take the Rangers to back-to-back World Series.
"It's been great being part of the evolution of this team," Andrus said. "We're making history as Texas Rangers. We want to go out there and do the best we can every day and if we can do that and be healthy, there's a lot of good things we can show to everybody."
Napoli and the club were $3.2 million apart when figures were exchanged last month. Napoli, who hit a career-best .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs in 113 games after he was acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays before the 2011 season, is asking for $11.5 million and the club is offering $8.3 million.
Cruz, who was the ALCS MVP in 2011 after hitting six homers in that six-game series win over the Tigers, is asking for $7.5 million and the club countered with $5.5 million. He hit .263 with 29 homers and 87 RBIs in 124 games in 2011.
"We're still having dialogue with their agents and we hope we can have similar conference calls in the near future for both of those guys," Levine said.
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.