This offseason’s crop of free agents featured a clear top four in the shortstop category. Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson were all highly sought after and all ended up securing deals well into nine-figure territory. There was a steep drop to the fifth best option, Elvis Andrus. Though there were many teams who expressed interested in the “Big Four” that ended up missing out, none have made a pivot to Andrus as a backup plan thus far. With just three weeks remaining until Spring Training begins, Andrus is still unsigned.
The 34-year-old Andrus has 14 years of MLB experience, having debuted with the Rangers as a 20-year-old back in 2009. He spent many years with Texas, hitting at a below-average level but still proving to be a valuable player via his speed and defense. In the 11 seasons from 2009 to 2019, he hit just 73 home runs and walked in just 7.3% of his plate appearances, but he also struck out at just a 13.6% rate. His batting line in that time was .275/.331/.373 for a wRC+ of 86, indicating he was 14% below league average. However, he also stole 302 bases and also graded very well on the dirt. Defensive Runs Saved had him just a hair above average, but Ultimate Zone Rating gave him a score of 28.2, the fifth-highest among shortstops in that time. Outs Above Average, which was only introduced in 2016, graded him at plus-14, which was also fifth-best at the position. Despite the subpar batting, his 30.3 wins above replacement from FanGraphs was the second-most of all shortstops in that timeframe, trailing only Troy Tulowitzki.
Andrus had a down year in the shortened 2020 campaign and was traded to the A’s prior to 2021. He ended up having another typical season for him, hitting at a 74 wRC+ level but stealing 12 bases and getting some good grades for his work on the dirt. That led to him accumulating 1.6 fWAR on the year. In 2022, Andrus actually had a better season, despite being released by the A’s in the summer. That release seems to have been financially motivated, as Andrus had a slightly complicated finish to his contract. The 2022 season was the final guaranteed year of the extension he signed with the Rangers back in 2013. There was also a $15MM club option for 2023 but it would become a player option if Andrus was traded at some point and also logged 550 plate appearances in 2022.
Andrus was getting regular playing time with the rebuilding A’s and was well on his way to meeting that plate appearance threshold, but they instead released him in August. Andrus signed a new contract with the White Sox who needed a shortstop replacement for the injured Tim Anderson, eventually getting to 577 plate appearances on the year. Because he signed a new contract with the White Sox, the option was a moot point. He finished the year with a .249/.303/404 batting line and a wRC+ of 105. Thanks to his 18 steals and shortstop defense, he was worth 3.5 fWAR on the season between the two clubs.
Despite that solid platform year, Andrus lingers on the market. It’s probable that clubs are a bit skeptical of the 2022 output since Andrus hit .255/.302/.360 over the four prior seasons — but even that diminished version of Andrus was worth 4.3 fWAR in 419 games. Many teams still have shortstop deficiencies, and Andrus could also potentially help out teams that are weak at second base. He’s never played on the other side of the bag but expressed a willingness to do so last year with the White Sox when there was a possibility Anderson could return from the IL and retake the shortstop position. Despite the lack of experience at the position, many shortstops have found it easy to make the transition to second, which is considered a less-demanding spot.