In an ideal world, the Oakland A’s would have Nick Allen at short as they begin their rebuilding process. His glove has been major league ready almost since he was drafted, although there were plenty of questions about his bat. In that same universe, the A’s would be able to find a taker for Elvis Andrus; or, at worst, have let him go.
Based on his previous production, it would not have been a surprise to see Andrus lose his spot in the lineup to Allen as 2022 progressed. He had posted a combined .255/.302/.360 batting line in his 1728 plate appearances between 2018 and 2021, hitting 24 homers and 77 doubles while stealing 51 bases. His 75 OPS+ and mediocre defense over that time were entirely replaceable.
Elvis Andrus doing something unexpected for Oakland A’s
At least that was the expectation heading into this year. Instead, Andrus has actually been surprisingly useful for an A’s lineup that has been in desperate search of anything competent. He had produced a surprising .238/.309/.361 batting line with three homers and nine doubles in his 162 plate appearances entering Monday, his 100 OPS+ easily his best showing since 2017.
This puts the A’s in a difficult spot. In theory, that performance would allow them to get something for Andrus at the trade deadline. The problem is that he has a $15 million vesting option for 2023 that triggers with 550 plate appearances. No one is going to want that salary on their books next year.
At the same time, Andrus is playing well enough that they cannot justify turning him into a bench player. That 100 OPS+ is actually tied for fourth amongst players with at least 50 plate appearances on the A’s. As amazing as it may sound, the A’s need Andrus in the lineup to have some semblance of a viable major league roster.
This leaves the A’s without a great solution. They could release him, but they would have to pay the rest of his salary, which they do not want to do. They could continue to play him in hopes that a team gets desperate for help at short, which would potentially put them on the hook for his $15 million option next year. Or, they could sit him down and torpedo any trade value that he has in the hope that they can get out of his option.
The Oakland A’s are in a tough spot with Elvis Andrus. By playing well, he has actually managed to make their decision even more difficult.