The A’s announced Wednesday that they’ve released veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus. Infielder Sheldon Neuse is up from Triple-A Las Vegas to take his spot on the roster.
Once Andrus wasn’t traded either in the offseason or at the trade deadline earlier this month, the writing was on the wall for Andrus, whose contract contains a vesting player option for the 2023 season that would become kick in upon reaching 550 plate appearances. The rebuilding Athletics unsurprisingly had no interest in allowing that option to vest, and the mere presence of that option has made the possibility of trading Andrus seem both complicated and frankly unlikely since this past winter.
Now that he’s been released from that contract, Andrus can sign a new deal that does not require a new club to pay him $15MM in 2023 if he reaches 550 plate appearances on the season. (Andrus is currently at 386 trips to the plate and would’ve needed another 164 to reach that threshold.) Any team that signs Andrus would need only pay him the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the Major League roster; the A’s will remain on the hook for the rest of this year’s salary.
It’s been a decent season for Andrus at the plate and with the glove. The 33-year-old (34 next week) is no longer the hitter, but he’s turned in a respectable .237/.301/.373 batting line (97 wRC+) with eight home runs, 24 doubles and seven stolen bases. Defensive metrics on Andrus are something of a mixed bag this season; Defensive Runs Saved pegs him six runs below average, but neither Ultimate Zone Rating (2.6) nor Outs Above Average (-1) is quite so sour on his glove work. It’s fair to say that Andrus is clearly no longer the premium defender he was early in his career, when he was regarded as one of the sport’s top gloves at any position.
With Andrus out the door, the A’s will turn shortstop over to a player who has just that type of defensive prowess right now, in the early stages of his own career. Nick Allen, 23, has managed just a .215/.279/.316 slash through his first 173 trips to the plate in the big leagues, but he’s considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors and has a more palatable .266/.371/.358 slash in 206 plate appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas, where he’s walked almost as often as he’s struck out (13.1% versus 16.5%).
Allen will likely never hit for power in the big leagues, but with regular playing time, his walk rates, speed and bat-to-ball skills could lead to some 20-steal seasons with solid OBP marks and plus defensive contributions. If the lack of power proves too limiting for Allen to hit like an everyday player, the glove and above-average speed should make him a useful utility infielder who can provide excellent defense at shortstop, second base and third base.