A Good Problem To Have

Another year later and the story is still the same. The Rangers still boast too many good middle-infielders, and it’s still ‘a good problem to have’. And there’s still no clear position for Jurickson Profar. However, this off-season seems to be an ideal time to cram these middle-infield puzzle pieces together, or possibly swap for some new tiles.
Profar will be 21 in February and would obviously benefit from settling down in a set position. But which one? His four-game audition in left field didn’t render any further play. Shortstop is his most natural position, but there’s almost $140 million owed to Elvis Andrus until 2023. (Will baseball still be around in 2023!?). Profar did get 10 games at third base. Moving Adrian Beltre off of third may not be as crazy as it sounds.

Beltre may play a jovial character on the field but he’ll be 35 next year. For context, Hall of Famer, Ron Santo ended his career at age 34 with 18,777 defensive innings played. Scott Rolen got to 17,479 innings before retiring. Chipper Jones played 20,616 innings in his career, however about 3,000 of those innings were in the outfield.

Surprisingly though, in Beltre’s three seasons in Texas he’s increased his defensive innings each season. For his career, he’s just over 19,000 innings. Each season yields about 1000-1200 innings. Beltre has accumulated 21.9 dWAR in his career. Last year he was worth -.2. Is this a hiccup or the gradual decline of a defensive master?

Beltre could probably play a competent third base into his late 40s, and that would probably be something the Rangers could withstand. The team didn’t exactly crumble with Michael Young at the hot corner 2009-10, when he totaled -2 dWAR in his two-year trial.

It seems there are compelling reasons for moving Beltre in favor of Profar, but then half of your infield is learning a new position. So for now let’s leave Beltre at third and turn our attention to the lightning rod that is Ian Kinsler.

It seems reasonable, if not likely that Profar could out-hit Kinsler. Before the Kinsler apologists quote me his fWAR, let me just mention he’s been pretty average over the last two years, OPS+ of 97 and 105 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
This is the same ol’ story: Kinsler should move to either first base or leftfield. The appealing part of that is both of those positions appear to be open. If Kinsler was going to make a position change now would be ideal. It would allow Texas to fill two gapping holes rather than three (catcher, first base and left-field). Of course there’s always a trade too, which would be geared towards fillings those gaps as well. The problem with that is Kinsler’s market isn’t exactly ripe. He has four years left on his current contract, not including a team option for a fifth year.

To appease the trade junkies, I’ll throw this out there: Ian Kinsler and Craig Gentry for Austin Jackson and Rick Porcello.

That’s probably a tad too favorable for the Rangers though. But it would be nice to have Porcello racking up double plays, and Jackson a Denton-native patrolling the outfield. Both, Porcello and Jackson have two years of arbitration left.  

It appears the Kinsler-card will determine this off-season. A trade would clearly signal a new direction and solve current roster problems. Also having the option to move him to either first base of leftfield creates flexibility in the pursuit for a more balanced line-up.

General Manager, Jon Daniels seems dead-set on making the middle-infield mix-up a routine. This may all work itself out in a year or two only to be ruffled up again by the next wave of prospects such as, Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas. Both prospects reached AA-Frisco at the end of the season.

On the surface, the easiest and most efficient roster move would be to set Profar up for second base and move Kinsler to first, left, or another team if he bickers about the position change. A trade may prove to be even more attractive if Texas wants to free up more salary. Kinlser is owed $16 million next year.

Also, it’s possible that they keep all three middle infielders and utilize one as a  DH/roving infielder, AKA the “Leadership Role” that Michael Young admirably filled. That flexibility may prove valuable to extend Beltre’s health at third base.

All of these options are up in the air and I’m sure they’ve all been bandied about on a white board at 1000 Ballpark Way. Hopefully JD will soon solve the ‘good problem to have’, because having your all-world prospect fill a bench role and hit .234 in sporadic playing time is actually not a very good solution.

Dan Allsup is a  Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach him on Twitter @DanAllsup, or email him at Dan.Allsup@shutdowninning.com
Dan Allsup

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