I got a text yesterday afternoon from the creator of the ESPN blog I write for — One Strike Away — telling me to check out some rumor going around that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers are “exploring” a deal that would send shortstop Elvis Andrus to LA for aging outfielder Carl Crawford.
My first thought was, ew, no. Crawford is aging and expensive, while Andrus, in spite of his drawbacks offensively, is still relatively young and relatively inexpensive. I say relatively young because Elvis is entering his age-27 season, and I say relatively inexpensive because, at $15 million per year average annual value (AAV) for the next handful of seasons, you’re basically looking at a +2.0 to +2.5 win player in the WAR/$ paradigm, something he shouldn’t have any issues satisfying over the life of his deal (which kicks in next season).
Andrus’s current disposition in Texas is compounded by the fact that the former future shortstop-turned-future-second-baseman, Jurickson Profar — the #1 prospect in all of baseball heading into 2013 — missed all of 2014 with a shoulder injury that appears like it will carry over into 2015 as well. It’s not that trading Elvis Andrus is a bad idea for the Rangers in theory, it’s that they have no one reliable that can reasonably fill his shoes. And that’s a problem. If anything, that is why it doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Rangers to move Elvis this offseason.
Carl Crawford, meanwhile, doesn’t seem like a worthwhile target to net from the loss of Andrus. There are outfielders out there, like Jason Heyward or Carlos Gonzalez or Bryce Harper, who are good enough to compensate for having a hole in the lineup the size of Luis Sardinas — Elvis’s replacement if he were traded — but there’s no way the Rockies, Braves or Nationals would part ways with their respective star in a straight-up swap for Elvis.
Another item worth considering is the Rangers current championship window, which essentially lives and dies with ace starting pitcher Yu Darvish through 2017, 2016 if he wins a Cy Young Award in the next two seasons. Everything Texas have done over the last couple years — notably trading for Prince Fielder and signing Shin-Soo Choo — was built to succeed in the short-term, not 5-6 years from now. By that time Fielder and Choo’s skills will have eroded to the point where they may not even be worth a roster spot. Jon Daniels has gambled on right now to help pay off a couple bad contracts down the road, contracts that will be well worth it if the franchise is able to hang its first championship banner in team history.
For that, Carl Crawford doesn’t seem like a very valid option. He makes $62.25 million ($20.75 million AAV) over the next three seasons, which equates to about $17 million more than Texas would be paying Elvis during the same timeframe. Again, this is the Yu Darvish Timeframe. The championship window. It leads me to believe if this is a legitimate conversation between two of baseball’s powerhouse minds — Daniels and Andrew Friedman — it’s with the thought that Los Angeles is kicking in at least $20 million, but hopefully something closer to $30-$35 million. Even at that, the Dodgers would come out as the runaway victors of the trade.
Elvis Andrus plays shortstop, a scarcely populated major league position as far as talent is concerned. No, he doesn’t have a bat, and frankly he never really had a bat even when he was producing 4-plus-win seasons in 2011 and ’12. Andrus is counted on to produce on defense, that’s what his value is tied to, and stealing the occasional base once he gets on with a single here and there. Crawford, on the other hand, is a corner outfielder. There are a ton of good corner outfielders in MLB. They hit better, they run better, they field better and they throw better than Crawford does. So if the Rangers are signing up for that, that’s fine, but it means they will have to be compensated financially by excessive measures, and it means they have a bigger target in mind — maybe Max Scherzer or Jon Lester — that they intend to use those savings on. Otherwise it makes absolutely no sense.
In the end, I don’t think anything is going to happen. I don’t think Andrus for Crawford makes much sense even in theory. The Rangers have certainly not been infallible in their recent decisions, but I highly doubt they would be willing to go into 2015 with a middle infield tandem centered around Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas, not unless their intention was to be uncompetitive and, as such, moving Elvis Andrus would be nothing more than a salary dump.