Rangers acquire Khris Davis from A’s for Elvis Andrus
In a rather stunning swap of veterans, prospects, and cash between divisional rivals, the Rangers are sending long-time shortstop Elvis Andrus, catching prospect Aramis Garcia, and $13.5M in cash to the Oakland A’s for outfielder/designated hitter Khris Davis, catcher Jonah Heim, and right-handed pitcher Dane Acker. In announcing the deal, the Rangers note that Andrus leaves as one of just five players to spends 12 seasons in Texas. The A’s have also announced the deal, making it official.
While the roster implications are significant for both teams, the financial aspect is no less fascinating. Andrus is owed $14.25M in both 2021 and 2022. Per the original terms of the deal, Andrus also has a vesting option for $15M in 2023 that, because of the trade, will now become a player option. Still, to make that player option vest, he’ll still need either accrue 550 plate appearances in 2022 or 1,100 appearances combined in 2021 and 2022. Previously the plate appearance threshold would have triggered a mutual option instead of a player option.
Andrus has only reached that marker in one of the previous three seasons, so there’s at least a reasonable chance he reaches free agency after the 2022 season. If that proves to be the case, the A’s will have freed themselves from the $16.75M owed to Davis, while essential remaining on the hook for about $7.25M in each of 2021 and 2022. Andrus is also getting an $800K assignment bonus, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter), though it’s unclear which side will be responsible for it.
In terms of the Rangers’ financial motivations, they take on more money up front for later payroll flexibility. Davis will be a free agent after the season, so instead of paying out $14.25M in each of the next two seasons, they’ll either pay $30.50M this season and totally free their future payroll, or if the money to Oakland is paid in installments, they would likely cut the amount of money owed in 2022 in half to something like $6.75M.
On the field, this ends Andrus’ 12-year run as the Rangers’ starting shortstop. The last remaining connection to their back-to-back pennant-winning teams in 2010 and 2011, the two-time All-Star leaves as the franchise’s all-time leader with 305 stolen bases, second all-time with 1,652 game played, and third all-time in both hits (1,743 hits) and runs (893 runs scored). Though he came to be seen as an albatross contract in recent years, Andrus more than earned his keep over the years, producing $205.8M worth of value through 28.1 fWAR, per Fangraphs, a full $100M over the $105.67M of actual pay he has thus far banked.
Nevertheless, he was set to lose his starting shortstop job to Isiah Kiner-Falefa this season. Andrus admits to some hard-hardheadedness when it comes to changing his approach at the plate, which may have held him back in recent seasons. He will now have the opportunity to re-boot his career in Marcus Semien’s vacated seat as Oakland’s primary shortstop. Consider the challenge accepted, as with more than 10 years of Major League experience with the Rangers, Andrus had accrued 10-and-5 rights, which he waived to make this trade happen.
As for the other piece heading to Oakland, Garcia hit .229/.270/.419 over 111 plate appearances with the Giants between 2018 and 2019. The Rangers claimed the former second round pick off waivers from San Francisco this past November. His inclusion doesn’t likely move the needle much in terms of the overall value of the deal, though he does give the A’s a cheap option to take over as for Heim as Sean Murphy’s backup. Though A’s fans may bristle at seeing Heim included in the deal given his success last season, if the A’s are committed to Murphy as their regular backstop, then including a backup catcher to achieve their goal of moving off the money owed to Davis this season would seem a calculated risk on their part. Notably, the A’s have another fairly well-regarded backstop in Austin Allen who could also step in to back up Murphy.
With Semien and Tommy La Stella already moving on to new teams this season, it’s hard to view the acquisition of Andrus as a significant win for the A’s. Never much of a slugger, Andrus has only twice exceeded 100 wRC+ and hasn’t topped 76 wRC+ since 2017. A three-year slash line of .260/.306/.378 won’t go far in trying to replace Semien, who was, after all, a legitimate MVP candidate as recently as 2019.
Andrus’ glovework should be his selling point, but he’s scored -7 defensive runs saved in 1,521 innings since 2019 and -3 outs above average in 2020. Statcast credits him with 5 outs above average in 2019, however, and a total 0.5 UZR over the past two years suggest Andrus can at least provide average defense for the A’s at short.
The Rangers take on Davis, famed for his preternatural consistency in batting exactly .247 for four season in a row, which he followed up with matching 82 wRC+ seasons in 2019 and 2020. Davis’ power significantly dissipated these past two seasons, as the A’s saw his isolated power drop from .302 ISO in 2018 to .166 ISO and .1229 ISO the past two seasons. Davis hasn’t played much outfield in recent seasons, but the Rangers are fairly set in that regard anyhow with David Dahl and Joey Gallo expected to start regularly in the corners. Davis could steal some at-bats from Willie Calhoun at designated hitter, specifically against southpaws, whom Davis has continued to hit well with 135 wRC+ in 2020 (though his power saw an even more precipitous drop against lefties than righties in 2020).
The Rangers long-term value in this deal will come from Heim and Acker. The latter was a fourth round pick in 2020, and because of the pandemic, the 21-year-old has yet to make his professional debut.
Heim, meanwhile, has the potential to develop into a regular catcher for the Rangers. He made just 41 plate appearances last season, but earned rave reviews from the pitching staff for his ability to manage a game, per the Athletic’s Eno Sarris (via Twitter). Heim was the A’s No. 9 ranked prospect per MLB.com in 2020, No. 13 by Fangraphs, and No. 8 by Baseball America. Because of the A’s depth, Heim’s addition should mean more to the Rangers than his subtraction will for Oakland.