OAKLAND -- With the middle-infield options to replace recently departed shortstop Marcus Semien running thin on the free-agent market, the A’s went the trade route and landed a former All-Star in Elvis Andrus after pulling off a rare intradivision five-player deal with the Rangers on Saturday.
The price to acquire Andrus was a steep one. Slugger Khris Davis is heading to Texas in the deal, as well as catching prospect Jonah Heim and right-hander Dane Acker. The A’s received Minor League catcher Aramis Garcia and cash from the Rangers to help cover Andrus’ remaining salary for the next three seasons.
A’s get: SS Elvis Andrus, C Aramis Garcia, cash
Rangers get: DH Khris Davis, C Jonah Heim, RHP Dane Acker
The trade brought mixed emotions for Andrus, who has only played for the Rangers in his 12 Major League seasons after joining the club in a trade from the Braves in 2007. On one hand, Andrus said he will miss the relationships he developed in Texas over that time. But there is also a feeling of excitement, knowing he’ll join an A’s squad that is coming off an American League West championship and has reached the postseason in each of the past three years.
“When I found out the opportunity to play for Oakland opened up, it made sense for my career and where I’m at right now,” Andrus said. “I’m blessed to join the Oakland A’s. We’ve got an amazing team and a great group. I can’t wait to join the team and help any way I can to get back in the postseason and go deep.”
A back injury limited Andrus to just 29 games and a .194 batting average last year. But for most of his career, the 32-year-old shortstop has displayed strong durability, playing at least 145 games in 10 out of 11 seasons from 2009-19. Andrus slashed .275/.313/.393 with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs while also swiping 31 bases in ‘19.
“I think 2020 was a bad -- but at the same time great -- year for me,” Andrus said. “It taught me a lot of good things about me. Internally, I grew a lot. I have a really different perspective of my game moving forward, and my expectations are super high. I think this year is a great year to give all my abilities to the team and show that there’s a lot left in the tank.”
Potential starting lineup for the A’s
1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Ramón Laureano, CF
3. Matt Chapman, 3B
4. Matt Olson, 1B
5. Mark Canha, DH
6. Sean Murphy, C
7. Chad Pinder, 2B
8. Stephen Piscotty, RF
9. Seth Brown, LF
While Andrus was set for a transition to a utility role in Texas, he’s likely to fill the A’s shortstop opening created after Semien signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays last week. Oakland’s starting second-base job remains vacant after the free-agent departure of Tommy La Stella, though the A’s have reliable in-house options for that spot in Chad Pinder, Tony Kemp and Vimael Machín.
“I’m not trying to fill anyone’s shoes,” Andrus said. “I’ll be myself. That’s something that I’ve always done my whole career. I know that I’m going to a new organization so I have to get used to the way the A’s play and what they have for me, but I try not to put pressure on that. I love the group. I talked to a bunch of guys in the organization already and they’re making me feel super welcome.”
According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Andrus is in line to make $14 million per year from 2021-22, with a club option for $15 million in ‘23 that converts to a player option if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2022 or combines for 1,100 plate appearances from 2021-22. The amount of cash the A’s will receive from Texas in the deal is reportedly $13.5 million.
The extra money should allow the A’s some financial flexibility to address other needs. Topping that list is the bullpen, which has already lost Liam Hendriks and Joakim Soria through free agency. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit -- another key piece from last year’s relief corps -- also remains without a contract.
“I can’t say [the cash] wasn’t an important part of the deal,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “We’d like to move quickly and make some additions to this team. This is still a team that has a chance to win the division again. I’m hopeful that we can move quickly to use some of that payroll flexibility that was achieved.”
After years of sharing the left side of the Rangers' infield with one of the game’s greatest defenders at the hot corner in Adrián Beltré, Andrus now joins another superb infield that includes Matt Chapman and Matt Olson at the corners, both of whom have earned two Gold Gloves in their first three full big league seasons.
“I’ve really admired this team, especially the past two years,” Andrus said. “It’s really hard to have such young players be that mature. Guys like Chapman, Olson, [Jesús] Luzardo, there are so many on this team that I really admire. I got to the league really young, too. When you find that type of talent, it’s really cool to be a part of that.
“I started thinking a little bit. Playing next to Chapman is like playing next to my good friend Adrián Beltré when he was younger. I know it’s going to be a lot of fun in that infield.”
The idea of trading Davis would have been laughable just a couple of years ago when he tore through the league as baseball’s most prolific slugger from 2016-18 with 133 home runs over that three-year stretch. But after signing a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension in a ‘19 campaign that saw him deal with multiple injuries, Davis has struggled to regain his form. Relegated to mostly a bench role last season, Davis hit just two home runs in 30 games.
A move to Texas might be the best opportunity to revitalize the 33-year-old. Davis has traditionally raked in Texas, with his 19 career home runs in 36 games at the recently closed Globe Life Park being the second-most by a visiting player in the stadium’s history, only one behind Jason Giambi’s 20. Davis did not homer in four games at Globe Life Field last season.
“It wasn’t an easy call to make,” Forst said. “What Khris has brought to the organization and the city over the last five years is hard to put into words. He got here when we were on a down cycle and gave us all something to look forward to. He kind of was the leader of this group that has gone to the playoffs the last three years. But this was about filling a hole at shortstop and we did it with an All-Star caliber player.”
Ranked as the A's No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, Heim, 25, received high praise during his short stint in the Major Leagues last year as a rookie for his game-calling behind the plate. Expected to begin the 2021 season as the backup to Sean Murphy, Heim could see more playing time in Texas. Austin Allen, who began the ‘20 season as Murphy’s backup, is now likely to fill that role again this upcoming season.
Acker departs the organization before even getting a chance to play a single game in the Minor Leagues. The 21-year-old righty was a fourth-round Draft pick by the A’s last June.
Garcia, 28, missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing right hip surgery. The backstop, who saw limited big league action with the Giants in ‘18 and ‘19, is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training.