Solving The Andrus, Kinsler, and Profar Puzzle

It seems so harmless when you pick up a Rubik’s cube for the first time. You flip it around, observe the checkered colors surrounding the six sides of the toy. You spin one side, just to see what happens. Flip the toy around again, and you think you have an idea of what you want to do. You make another twist, and the game is on. What began as a seemingly simple pursuit has now become an odyssey of unintended consequences, collateral damage, and frustration, typically ultimately resulting in discarding the stupid box, swearing to never dally in its haunting simplicity again. 
The process for determining how to solve the logjam at shortstop and second base for the Texas Rangers in 2013 seems to follow a similar process.

First, we flip the three sides of Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, and Jurickson Profar around, and the simple plans come into view.

So we decide to trade Andrus. Seems simple enough; his agent is Scott Boras, he’ll hit free agency at an age that will make him impossible to re-sign, Profar can play shortstop, and it’s better to move him now than get nothing for him. But then Texas extends Andrus to a fairly team-friendly deal that will keep him in town through 2018, and possibly through 2023.

Okay, fine, we decide, trading Andrus isn’t the right first step anymore. So, obviously, the next choice would be to trade Kinsler. After all, Kinsler turns 31 this year, so as the oldest of the trio, he’s the most desirable to move. But what makes him desirable to move makes the potential return in a trade less desirable, as his value to Texas is higher than it is to any other team. Trading Kinsler, especially mid-season, isn’t the type of move a contender makes.

So now we’re on to option three: trade Profar. Ah, yes, Profar, the 20-year old who is MLB-ready and entered the season as the top prospect in the game. His value couldn’t be higher – which might be the problem. How can you trade Profar correctly? The Rangers signed Profar, have groomed him and watched him blossom in their farm system, and can appreciate how bright his future better than anyone. Trying to find a deal that another team would make that would give the Rangers a return worthy of moving the under-team-control-for-six-more-years Profar is a needle-finding errand in the MLB haystack. Additionally, because Elvis may opt out of his contract after 2018 and pursue free agency then, having a franchise shortstop like Profar is a valuable insurance policy.

Well, then, we’re definitely keeping all three of them in the Rangers organization, at least for now. That’s the prudent decision, and the most fun decision anyway. Well, wait, now our cube is back to where we started, as we still haven’t figured out how to get all three of them on the field at the same time.

On we go to more creative strategies that involve rotating multiple sides of the cubein concerto. Since three players cannot play two positions, we’ll need to create the necessary space.

So we move Kinsler to first base, or left field, or right field, and Profar takes over at second base. But then we must consider if Kinsler is a good fit at any of those positions, particularly with a mid-season move that he rejected prior to Spring Training when he could have taken hundreds of reps to gain some level of comfort in a new location on the diamond. That gives us two questions that don’t make this plan sound so solid: (1) Would Kinsler be an upgrade over Moreland, Murphy, or Cruz at this exact moment? And (2) Would Profar be able to perform at the same level at second base as Kinsler? The first answer is a maybe, and the second almost a definite no. So we may have downgraded two positions on a first place team competing for a World Series for the sake of trying to align our cube. That sounds closer to cannibalism than it is to ingenuity.

Alright, Andrus stays at short, and Kinsler stays at second base, for this year, at least. Now we have to decide what to do with Profar. He’s never played outfield. He’s not going to play first base. Is it worth it to keep him on the roster as the utility infielder? Not likely, the regular playing time is valuable for the 20-year old. Could he play a corner outfield position? He may be filled with enough preternatural ability to do so, but again, how confident are we that he would be an upgrade this year over the existing pieces? He looks like a more natural fit for center field, and that transition may make more sense, but the Rangers already have two center fielders, does it add much to the team to throw in a third? Even in center, how much is the value of a player like Profar affected by the move from middle infield? Would it be better to simply trade him for the highest available bounty at that point?

It seems the most viable solution, once Ian Kinsler returns from the disabled list in the next week or two, will be for Profar to be once again resigned to Triple-A. There the Rangers may experiment with getting him looks in the outfield, so it can be re-evaluated if that is a worthwhile pursuit to improve the 2013 club.

Profar will make it back to the big league club this year, even if he is sent back to Round Rock for the time being. He may come back as an outfielder, or another injury may once again open the gates for the phenom in the starting lineup, or at the very least he’ll join the club in August, and will take hold of the utility infielder position down the stretch run and [hopefully] deep into the playoffs.

The cube appears to be unsolvable in a completely satisfactory manner for the next few months. This off-season, the picture may become clearer, and the sides of the puzzle may move more smoothly into place. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Solving complex puzzles is rarely accomplished successfully when undertaken hastily. The most valuable assets to piecing together a Rubik’s cube are patience and additional knowledge. These next few months will be an exercise in gaining more of each. 

Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM
Peter Ellwood

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