Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has a fractured right elbow, according to reports from last night. There’s been no official word yet on any moves or time frames, but Elvis is certainly heading for the disabled list for the first time in his career, and will probably miss a minimum of two months -- perhaps longer.
So how will the Rangers deal with the active roster in his absence?
The loss of Elvis is exacerbated by the fact that both Delino DeShields and Rougned Odor are also currently on the disabled list. Prior to Elvis’s injury, the bench consisted of Rule 5 backup centerfielder Carlos Tocci, backup catcher Juan Centeno, and newly promoted backup infielder/catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The Rangers will now have to add another position player to the active roster, and the only position players in the minors who are currently on the 40 man roster are Willie Calhoun, Ronald Guzman, Eliezer Alvarez and Jose Trevino.
The Rangers could call up Calhoun, who was considered to be in the mix for the regular left field job this spring, but whose defense in the outfield is considered significantly below-average. Calhoun is in AAA to work on his defense (according to some people, including the organization and beat guys) or to keep him from having a full year of service time by the end of 2018 (according to others), but the bat is generally considered major league ready. So one option would be to call up Calhoun in the interim and use him in left field or at DH (with Shin-Soo Choo moving to an outfielder corner).
The problem with that scenario, however, is that you’d be moving Ryan Rua to center field, where his defense is likely to be below average, and moving Drew Robinson from center field to second base. A Calhoun/Rua/Mazara outfield would be the worst defensive outfield in the majors, most likely, while Robinson isn’t a great option defensively at second base.
Another option would be to call up Ronald Guzman, play him at first base, and move Joey Gallo to left field, with Rua going to center field and Robinson to second base. That’s probably a better alignment defensively, and while I suspect Calhoun is a better hitter than Guzman right now, I’m not sure there’s a huge difference in the short-term. That said, the Rangers have indicated they want Gallo to play first base and not worry about playing multiple positions, and so I’m doubtful the team would shuffle him around for a short-term solution.
Texas could consider Eliezer Alvarez, who has spent the bulk of his professional career at second base. However, he’s not considered particularly adapt at the position, and at Frisco, he has played just one game at second base, getting his other five starts in the outfield. Asking a bat-first guy who put up a 702 OPS in AA in 2017, and who barely has 250 plate appearances above low-A ball, to step into the majors and fill in at second base would seem to be a stretch, though it is possible.
(As a side note, when I was looking at the 40 man roster on the Rangers’ website, Alvarez wasn’t listed, so maybe the Rangers put him on waivers without mentioning it to anyone yet). UPDATE — Alvarez is now listed on the 40 man roster.
The Rangers could opt to go for someone who is not on the 40 man roster currently, whether that someone inside the organization or outside the organization. Kiner-Falefa got the call up with Rougned Odor went down because he was on the 40 man roster, but Hanser Alberto might be a better choice for a longer-term bench role. If Andrus is going to miss two to three months, once Odor returns (which is expected to be in roughly three weeks), Texas could option Kiner-Falefa back to AAA to get more regular playing time, and keep Alberto in the majors in a reserve role. A roster spot could be cleared for Alberto by putting Andrus on the 60 day disabled list, assuming the evaluation today indicates that he’s expected to miss that much time. Otherwise, the Rangers would be looking at cutting ties with someone on the current 40 man roster, with Alvarez and Connor Sadzeck seeming to be the most likely potential casualties.
For someone outside of the organization who wasn’t on the 40 man roster, Darwin Barney would seem to be a candidate. Barney was in spring training with the Rangers, but took his release in mid-March when it became apparent he wouldn’t be on the team. He doesn’t appear to have signed with anyone, and while he is primary a second baseman, he can also back up at shortstop, meaning that, once Odor returns, he could fill the UIF role. He’s historically been considered a very good defender at second base, although his numbers in 2017 for Toronto, both offensively and defensively, were down, as he put up a .232/.275/.327 slash line with a -0.8 bWAR. Still, as a guy to keep the spot warm until Odor returns, and then to sit on the bench and play once every couple of weeks when Profar or Odor need a day off, he would seem to be a viable choice.
Delino DeShields, of course, will be coming off the disabled list soon, perhaps earlier than Odor. DeShields has said he’s aiming for an April 20 return, and while that may be early, he’s probably going to be back in a couple of weeks. Once DeShields returns, the Rangers would presumably send Calhoun or Guzman back down (if they are who gets the nod), or Kiner-Falefa down, if they add another infielder. The Rangers would then have another roster decision to make once Odor returns, and if no one else gets hurt, they’ll have to either option Ryan Rua or Drew Robinson or waive Carlos Tocci.
There are a lot of moving parts here, but once DeShields and Odor return, we should see more stability. At that point, Odor will be the regular second baseman, Profar will be the regular shortstop, DeShields will be the regular center fielder, someone will be the UIF, and someone from the Robinson/Rua/Tocci mix will be the odd man out.