By David Mullen
While many were preparing their barbeque for a feast of ribs and sausages synonymous with Super Bowl parties, the Texas Rangers were heating up the Hot Stove League. And when the smoke cleared, the last link to the World Series teams of the early 2010s was heading west and the overhaul of the local baseball franchise continued.
Elvis has left the rebuilding.
On February 6, in an effort to build up a cadre of young players with potential to create a foundation for the future, the Rangers traded 32-year-old shortstop Elvis Andres and minor league catcher Aramis Garcia to the AL West rival Oakland Athletics for designated hitter Khris Davis, backup catcher Jonah Heim and pitching prospect Dane Acker.
Andres is due to make $14.25 million in 2021 and 2022, with a $15 million vesting option in 2023. The Rangers also sent a reported $13 million to the A’s in cash considerations. Oakland is owned by John Fisher, son of the founders of retail and online clothing giant Gap, Inc. Forbes estimates Fisher’s current wealth at $2.9 billion. He runs the team like he lives under the Oakland Coliseum BART ramp. If they went to lunch, Ebenezer Scrooge would have to pick up the tab.
The popular Andres was on the way out because of a youth movement. Although he had played 12 years as the Rangers starting shortstop, he was destined to play third base this season, if he was to play regularly at all.
The everyday shortstop position is being given to versatile 25-year-old Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but Texas sees Class A player Josh Jung as the shortstop of the future.
Andres leaves among the team leader in various statistics including second in games played and at-bats (to Michael Young) and first in stolen bases. The only remaining face of the franchise now leaves the team virtually undistinguishable, except for outfielder Joey Gallo.
The 33-year-old Davis has been a Rangers killer, hitting 32 home runs of his MLB total 218 against Texas. But Davis is a bad left fielder and a defensive liability. Seemingly searching for a catcher since the departure of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, the Rangers may have found one in Heim. He is 6 feet 4 inches and a switch hitter, but has just 38 MLB at-bats. Acker will begin the year in the lower minors.
New Rangers GM Chris Young is living up to his words. When Young assumed the role from Jon Daniels who was kicked upstairs, he said: “I’ve had an open mind and a curiosity to learn to observe and study what has made successful players, successful franchises. And certainly, I look forward to applying that, but also learning, continuing to learn and grow in shaping the future of the Texas Rangers.” He is off with a flourish.
Longtime Rangers fans will remember the trade that shaped the franchise. A 16-year-old Venezuelan, Andrus was signed by the Atlanta Braves for more than $500,000. On July 31, 2007, Andrus, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and three minor league pitchers (Matt Harrison, Neftalí Feliz and Beau Jones) were traded to the Rangers for All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher Ron Mahay. Harrison won 50 games in Texas, Feliz eventually became the Rangers closer, Andrus became a two-time All-Star, and GM Daniels had his finest hour.
In 2011, Andrus was surrounded by Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli, viewed as one of the best Rangers teams in franchise history.
Now he finds himself among young stars like Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha and Sean Murphy. Andrus will be the oldest player in the A’s projected batting order.
Playing in the spacious Coliseum and with a number of ground ball pitchers on the mound, Andrus’ fielding will be put to the test. In the offseason, he lost 10 pounds and, despite recent injuries including a fractured elbow, he joins Oakland in excellent physical condition.
Sure, fans loved Andrus for his happy-go-lucky attitude, but it was often taken to be aloof or that he was not serious on the field. With all of his great moments as a Ranger, he will be forever linked to making two errors in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays, aka “the Juan Batista bat flip game.”
He will also be remembered for spirited — thought some thought disrespectful — antics with future Hall of Famer Beltre, his playing partner on the left side of the infield for eight seasons. Andrus would try to call off the Gold Glove third baseman on routine popups, earning a serious scowl from the stern Beltre as if to say: “What are you doing? Stop clowning around and play the game as it’s meant to be played!”
A renown haphephobic, Beltre despised having his head touched. Andrus went out of his way to pat him on the noggin every chance he had. Beltre loathed and Andres laughed. But in reality, they were the great friends.
Given the team’s past in Arlington — No Flags Over Texas sitting next to Six Flags Over Texas — it seems fitting that their new home of Globe Life Field would host a World Series in 2020 and the Rangers not even playing in it. Young and Daniels aim to change that, but it is part of a future plan. And now Andrus, and his ever-present smile, will not be part of rebuilding.
The Rangers got younger and Andrus has a chance to win a championship in Oakland. He will have another Gold Glover on his right side in third baseman Chapman. The A’s are fun loving, but Andrus will be looked upon to provide leadership in the clubhouse. And he should be warned. Chapman likes to take infield popups without frivolity and doesn’t like having his head touched either.