The A’s announced on Wednesday that they have released a veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus. infielder Sheldon Neuse is out of Triple-A Las Vegas to take his spot on the roster.
When Andrus was not traded in the off-season or on the trade deadline earlier this month, the writing was on the wall for Andrus, whose contract includes an unconditional player option for the 2023 season that would take effect upon reaching 550 at bats. Unsurprisingly, Athletics rebuild had no interest in allowing that option, and the mere presence of that option has made the ability to trade Andrus both complicated and frankly unlikely since last winter. Now that he’s been released, though, it’s a moot point; the option will not vest and Andrus will simply become a free agent at the end of the season.
[Related: Vesting Options Updates on Flexen, Maldonado, Carrasco, Andrus]
Andrus can now sign a new deal that doesn’t require a new club to pay him $15 million in 2023 if he hits 550 at bats in the season. (He’s currently on 386 trips to the plate and would have needed another 164 to reach that threshold.) Any team that signs Andrus will only have to pay him the pro-rata league minimum for any time spent in the Major League. -selection is spent; the A’s remain on the hook for the remainder of this year’s paycheck.
It’s been quite a season for Andrus at the plate and the gauntlet. The 33-year-old (34 next week) is no longer the batter, but he has racked up a respectable batting line of .237/.301/.373 (97 wRC+) with eight homeruns, 24 doubles and seven stolen bases. Defensive stats on Andrus have been a bit of a mixed bag this season; Points Defended Saved puts him six runs below average, but neither Ultimate Zone Rating (2.6) nor Outs Above Average (-1) is that sour on his gauntlet. It is fair to say that Andrus is clearly no longer the first-class defender he was at the start of his career, when he was regarded as one of the best gloves in the sport in every position.
With Andrus out the door, the A’s will hand over the shortstop to a player who now, in the early stages of his own career, has just that kind of defensive skills. Nick Allen23, has just a .215/.279/.316 slash through his first 173 trips to the plate in the major leagues, but he is considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors and has a more tasty .266/. 371/.358 slash in 206 at bats for Triple-A Las Vegas, where he walked almost as often as he struckout (13.1% vs. 16.5%).
Allen will probably never go for power in the major leagues, but with regular playing time, his running paces, speed and bat-to-ball skills could lead to some 20 steal seasons with solid OBP numbers and plus defensive contributions. If the lack of strength proves too limiting for Allen to hit like a regular player, the glove and above average speed should make him a useful infielder who can provide excellent defense at shortstop, second base and third base.
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