If Elvis Andrus is Available, the Yankees Should Pounce

The Texas Rangers have a really good problem. Jurickson Profar is a mega-prospect, who hits and fields like a future star shortstop. At 19 years old, he has hit .278/.361/.456 in 117 games. The Rangers are considering promoting Profar in September, and using him through the postseason. They believe he is major league ready.

The problem is that the Rangers already have one of the better shortstops in the game. Elvis Andrus, still just 23 years old, has been worth an average of 3.5 wins per season since he entered the major leagues. He is a +7 UZR/150 defender at short, and is having his best season at the plate in 2012, with a wRC+ of 105. He’s unique in today’s young hitter class because he has not yet signed a contract extension. Andrus is set to become a free agent in 2015, when he will be 26 years old.

I’ve believed for a long time that the Yankees should make Elvis Andrus their long term plan at shortstop. He is the only decent player at the position set to become a free agent any time soon. The Yankees have no better options in their farm system. Derek Jeter is 38 years old. If the Rangers trade Andrus before he becomes a free agent, the team that acquires him is very likely to aggressively court him for an extension. The Yankees may not be able to afford to wait for two more seasons.

The obvious road block to such a trade is Derek Jeter. He has been doing his best Mike Trout impression in August, and to a 119 OPS+ – higher than his career average, at the age of 38. Jeter’s performance at the plate is ridiculously impressive no matter how you slice it, but his defense is another story. Despite being +18.5 runs at the plate and on the bases, his fWAR stands at just +2.8 on the season. This is because Jeter is averaging a -18 UZR/150 right now, undercutting the advantage the Yankees get by having a shortstop bat so well.

If Derek Jeter were to move to, say, right field, and maintain his same batting line while playing average defense, he would not likely be worth 18 runs less versus an alternative right fielder. The pending departure of Nick Swisher opens up an easy spot for him.

Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle – two important analogues for Jeter’s career – moved positions when they got older. They did it for the good of the team, and to keep having opportunities to hit. Jeter’s bat is still an asset, but his glove this season has been worse than ever. Elvis Andrus would represent an important passing-of-the-torch moment for the Yankees, and they should not let a 38 year-old playing so improbably well hold that moment back for them. Derek Jeter is a much better bet to hit like his 2010-2011 self than his 2012 self going forward.

Ideally, the Rangers would wait one season before trading Andrus, if that is what they plan to do. One alternative scenario is that the Rangers just hold on to Andrus in 2013 and 2014 before letting him go as a free agent. Profar is still only 19 years old, and there’s no reason to immediately bet the farm on him. He would have to be a phenomenally good rookie just to equal what Andrus has been doing this year and last. A post-2013 trade would give Derek Jeter one more year at shortstop, bring the asking price down for Andrus, and hopefully give the Yankee farm system some time to produce assets. A post-2014 free agency would set the Yankees up as bidders on the open market, a position which they tend to win out in.

What assets would you trade for Andrus? The Rangers are surely going to ask for MLB-ready pieces to fill in their roster. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses this year, but the departure of Josh Hamilton could certainly open up a hole. I think Brett Gardner is an interesting piece to build a package around, as a player under team control for a season longer than Elvis Andrus. They are comparable players in many ways, but each would satisfy the other team’s needs. I’d be willing to throw in a top prospect as well, although I’d keep Mason Williams off the table as long as Gardner is in the deal. Tyler Austin or Gary Sanchez on the other hand, maybe?

I know we’re all in awe of Derek Jeter’s historic age-38 season. I’m starting to have more confidence that he can be a useful player into his 40s. But when evidence suggests that the bottom is starting to fall out of his (already deep) hole at an important defensive position, the Yankees need to start thinking about moving him, regardless of his offensive performance. Keeping him at shortstop when the alternative is Eduardo Nunez is one thing, but its a completely different thing when we start talking about the availability of elite young talent.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

22 thoughts on “If Elvis Andrus is Available, the Yankees Should Pounce

  1. TheOneWhoKnocks

    1) the rangers will likely trade Andrus this offseason; to extract the most value in a trade an also so profar can play every day in 2013
    2) the rangers and Yankees aren’t going to trade with each other
    3) Jeter will be playing SS for at least next season, and another 2-3 seasons after that wouldn’t shock me at this point.
    4)the Yankees don’t even have the necessary prospects to land an Andrus
    5) Andrus is surely going to test FA, I’m not going to give up prospects for him I’d rather take the risk that he could extend and hope he hits FA
    6) I know everyone hates him but we have a speedy SS in our system with a 105 wRC+ ceiling, granted his defense is no where close to Andrus but I’d rather play Nunez for 500k than pay Andrus 175m

    • bg90027

      I agree with all of this except for #1. I think there’s a good chance the Rangers move Kinsler to the outfield and shift Profar to 2nd and extend Andrus.

  2. 1) I’m 70% with you, 30% thinking that they might wait a season to trade him.

    2) I don’t think there’s any real reason to believe that.

    3) That’s the point of this post.

    4) Also, the point of this post.

    5) See #2.

    6) Yeah, no.

  3. Scout

    I just don’t see Jeter agreeing to a position switch so long as he can still walk. He is a VERY proud man, and he revels in the glory of being the greatest Yankee shortstop ever. You can cite all the defensive metrics you want, but unless he believes his skills have fallen off a cliff, the organization will never persuade him otherwise.

    • EJ Fagan

      At some point, the organization needs to have the stones to say ‘no’ to Jeter. They didn’t when he got himself a way overpriced contract, but they will eventually.

    • T.O. Chris

      It really shouldn’t be his choice. If it’s better for the team they just have to tell him he’s LF/RF, or DH and that’s that. If he bitches he bitches and proves all the things about being “the captain” and the “selfless team first guy” were always wrong. His choice.

      • kipraymo

        If the kids don’t get in the way again, Cashman will tell him like it is. Like you said play where we say or not.

        If there is much more of a decline in his fielding, his hitting will not make up for it. Let’s face it, his hitting will go down, this year is an outliner. This kind of year is had the year before a big drop in productivity.

        Use Nunez until a better SS is available, check his Errors at SS you will be surprised, not as many as a SS as one is lead to believe!

        • S. Leder

          You are right about Nunez and his number of errors at SS. He is almost error free since he came off the DL in AAA, and he repeatedly is involved in executing double plays.

      • TWASP

        Of course TO, it’s not Jeter’s choice. Jeter must do what he is told. CashMan has already proven a number of times that he will not baby the captain:

        1. Told Jeter to investigate another team during contract negotiations

        2. Told Jeter to train harder on his defensive range at a dinner just between the two.

  4. Tyler

    Andrus is, I feel, going to get dealt to the D-backs for Upton. Makes too much sense.

    • fuster

      good thought

  5. TOMMY CASSELLA

    IF THE YANKS LET ANDRES GO TO THE RAYS THAN THE ASSMAN SHOULD BE HUNG BY THE BALLS ON PRIME TIME TELEVISION.

  6. oldyankee7

    If you have the idea Cashman can stop Andres going to any team, you must be dreaming. Any trade made, has nothing to do with anything the Yanks can do.

    • TWASP

      Of course the AssMan can stop Andres from going to the Rays…..by making a large offer of players and cash. An offer Texas could not refuse…a preemptive strike……

      Jeter must be replaced soon before he becomes a huge liability at SS his UZR is -18!

      • kipraymo

        I still think Nunez can do a very good job as SS. No need to trade for anyone and waste some good talent.

    • TWASP

      Oldyankee13-

      You are incorrect….the Yankees GM CAN get involved and try to break up deals by offering different deals that might be more enticing. This has happened many times. Don’t you know how GMs work?

  7. fuster

    Fagan, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that Brett Gardner as a replacement for Hamilton just might leave the rangers a little short in the HR/RBI departments.

    • kipraymo

      how about Granderson in place of Gardner for Hamilton.
      I like Josh a lot with our right field fence but, I wonder about him and New York.

  8. FreeAgentID

    Do not deal for Andrus Yankees!
    Keep Jeter at SS until Nunez is ready. Nunez has a pretty good bat. He just needs to improve his glove.

  9. Justin

    Is this a joke? Obviously we should get Andrus if possible he will develop into one of the best all-around shortstops in a couple of years

  10. TWASP

    Kipraymo- You probably are correct Nunez is a great prospect.

  11. Joe McKim

    I honestly think that the Braves could throw their hat into the Andrus sweepstakes this offseason. Since the Braves don’t really have a full time SS for the future right now. They’re using Paul Janish right now who’s fine defensively but would not be in the majors if the Braves had anyone else who could hit better at the position. They’re using Martin Prado there part time but realistically he’s not a shortstop and with Chipper Jones retiring next year he’s going to have to play 3B for the Braves next year.

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