SURPRISE, Ariz. – Once he took Michael Young’s job four years ago, Elvis Andrus was smart enough to become his pal. He hung on Young’s every word, and he’s still trying to get used to him being with another team.
“It’s still weird,” Andrus told FOXSportsSouthwest.com on Monday. “He was Ranger Man. That’s what we called him. I guess it’s part of the process, but he was such a huge part of our team.”
They won’t say it publicly, but the Rangers are pretty much resigned to losing Andrus once he becomes a free agent following the 2014 season. It could happen sooner if the Rangers find a suitable trading partner.
Andrus will only be 26 when he hits free agency, and he could command somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 million per year. His agent, Scott Boras, isn’t exactly known for providing hometown discounts. But as long as Andrus is around, the Rangers might as well enjoy one of the most entertaining players in baseball. In fact, he could go down as the most charismatic player in team history.
This spring training was supposed to be the launching pad for 20-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar’s major-league career. He’s widely considered the No. 1 prospect in baseball, and the front office wasn’t pleased that Rangers manager Ron Washington kept him out of the lineup once he was promoted to the big-leagues last season. Profar told me Monday that he desperately wants to start the season in the majors no matter the role. But with Nolan Ryan saying Profar would need to at least have 350 at bats to justify staying with the Rangers out of spring training, it’s simply not going to happen.
If you’re trying to break through, Andrus is not the type of player you want blocking your path. He’s come a long way since Washington threatened to turn him into a “seven inning shortstop” after he kept losing focus in the field and making too many errors.
Now, Andrus is mentoring young infielders such as Profar and Leury Garcia. They hang on his every word, and he provides plenty of them. But at age 24, he was quick to label Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and David Murphy as the team’s true leaders.
“I’m not going to put all that on my shoulders,” Andrus said. “Those guys are a little more prepared than me. They have more respect at this point.”
For his part, Andrus has lost eight pounds since last season. He looked bulkier in 2012 and he thought it would help his power. What he discovered, though, is that he sacrificed some agility and explosiveness. The Rangers became way too passive in stealing bases, and Andrus plans to change that dynamic.
Like a lot of Rangers fans, Andrus admitted to getting excited when he read Twitter reports during the winter meetings that suggested the Rangers were in the running for numerous players. He said he monitored an MLB rumors account religiously.
“You always want the team to bring as many wonderful players as you can have,” Andrus said. “But once it’s all over, you can’t worry about who you don’t have.”
The Rangers currently have a surplus of quality shortstops. It’s likely that Andrus will be the first one to leave either via trade or free agency. By then, there’s a good chance he’ll be regarded as the best shortstop in baseball. Oh, and Derek Jeter’s career will likely be coming to an end with the Yankees.
It’s the perfect storm for Andrus and his agent. And the countdown has begun.