I got a bunch of emails yesterday, on the heels of the local report that 17-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar might be a sticking point in trade talks between the Rangers and Royals for Zack Greinke, asking a variation of this question:
Why would the Rangers balk at including Profar in a trade for Greinke since we already have Elvis Andrus at shortstop?
There are lots of possible reasons.
1. The AG Principle: What if Andrus were to leave as a free agent after the 2014 season (when Profar will be 21)? What if becomes clear in 2013 that that's where things are headed, as it had become in 2007 with Mark Teixeira, whom Texas knew it would lose after the 2008 season? Whether the Rangers hadn't anticipated that when they traded Adrian Gonzalez after the 2005 season (as Teixeira was just entering his arbitration years) - or perhaps they doubted that Gonzalez's power would develop - the fact that the right field experiment had failed (just as Teixeira's had the year before) meant the club had two young first basemen, one of whom was already a superstar, and the other was traded, poorly.
You don't trade Profar strictly because Andrus is here, just as it would have been wise not to trade Gonzalez just because Teixeira was here.
2. The Haf Principle: But what if you're convinced that Andrus will never leave and won't need to move off of shortstop for many years, and that Profar, best case, is not nearly the player Andrus is? Trade him, fine. But trade him well. Travis Hafner may have had no long-term place in Texas, with Teixeira ready to break into the big leagues just after Hafner had debuted himself, but the two-day sequence that saw the Rangers trade Hafner and Aaron Myette to Cleveland for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese, and then cut Ivan Rodriguez loose by not offering him arbitration, begged in short order for a do-over.
Now, that's not to suggest trading for Greinke would be akin to dealing for He Whose Hair Is Played With Afire. Let me invoke a different Rangers trade scenario, one that never came to fruition: the 2008 off-season dance between Texas and Boston during which everyone was sure that the Rangers and Red Sox would eventually come to their senses and find some sort of match with Gerald Laird, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez lined up on one side, and Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, and Nick Hagadone on the other.
Maybe there was equal value to be found somewhere in that mix, as far as Boston was concerned. Maybe the Rangers felt Hafner's defensive limitations and below-average speed were such that getting a starting catcher, plus an edge in the pitcher tradeoff, was reasonably good value. But Boston had bigger plans for those assets, which enabled them half a season later to trade for Victor Martinez.
If Profar is not the key player in this deal - even if he's a sticking point, he's not going to be the centerpiece - maybe there's something to be said for waiting until he can front a deal, not close one. Say, if Florida decides in 2012, after opening its new stadium, that Josh Johnson is a lock to leave after 2013? Hanley Ramirez (assuming he's even still a shortstop) will be a free agent after the 2014 season, when, again, Profar will just be 21. Trading Johnson could very well put a high-end shortstop prospect (along with young pitching) atop Florida's wish list - much like when the Marlins traded Josh Beckett to get Ramirez (and pitching) himself.
What if Chris Tillman figures it out and Baltimore knows it won't be able to keep both him and Brian Matusz when their free agency winters coincide? The Orioles were reportedly one of the only teams, along with Texas, that preferred Profar as a shortstop rather than on the mound as an amateur (though everyone's probably coming around on that issue now).
What if Luke Hochevar or Mike Montgomery or John Lamb or Aaron Crow starts to turn into what baseball people think they might, and Profar can key a deal for one of them in a couple years, rather than fit in as the third piece in a deal now?
Evan Longoria. Carlos Santana. Andrew McCutchen. Pick whatever name you'd like.
Sometimes you hold a player not because he's untouchable, but because there could be a better use for him down the road.
3. The Kins Principle: What if you (and by you, I mean the organization's decision-makers) actually think Profar is overhyped a bit right now, that his ceiling is lower than popular belief (or at least one other team's assessment) has it, that there's an opportunity to sell high? Thanks to Larry Walker's no-trade clause, we don't have a really ugly story to tell here, because Ian Kinsler and Erik Thompson for Walker at the trade deadline in 2004 never happened.
The point is this: Someone whose opinion counted here thought that Kinsler, in his first full pro season, despite hitting .400 for two months with Low A Clinton and sitting at .313 with AA Frisco seven weeks after his two-level promotion with off-the-charts bat speed, was worth trading (along with Thompson) for a year and two months of the 37-year-old Walker. In other words, that Kinsler wasn't going to develop into the player he's become.
Think Tom Grieve had chances to trade Pudge? Texas played .551 ball after the Break in 1990. Had never sniffed the post-season. Had a relatively young nucleus (Palmeiro, Sierra, Incaviglia, Franco in his prime, Juan Gonzalez just arriving) and young starters Kevin Brown and Bobby Witt (17 wins) paired with the still-effective Nolan Ryan and Charlie Hough, plus a young Kenny Rogers heading up the bullpen. I bet Grieve that winter could have traded Pudge, coming off his age 18 season in High Class A, a season in which he dazzled defensively but once again didn't hit a lot (.287/.316/.377), for someone like Cubs starter Mike Bielecki, or a half dozen other Bielecki's around the league, and on paper been better in 1991, certainly stronger candidates for a first-time playoff berth that year than without a deal.
No matter what the evaluations were, it's likely nobody in Rangers management believed at that time that Pudge was going to be the best catcher of his era, maybe more. The Rangers brass under-envisioned Kinsler at age 22.
This could also be called the Danks Principle. Gotta be careful about underestimating your own player.
4. The Misdirection: OK, but let's say Texas is really, really convinced that Kansas City values Profar more than he's really worth, and because of that the club is willing to put him in a deal to get Greinke. Maybe the play is to refuse to put him in the trade at first, but acquiesce later in order to get the Royals to retreat a bit on the rest of the ask. "If you take Profar, you can't have Perez or Scheppers or Erlin." Make them back off the level of pitching prospect they're insisting on in order to get Profar.
May not work. But maybe that's part of the play.
5. The Moreland Principle: Sitting down? What if Texas thinks Profar might be as good as Andrus? Or better? It's hard to imagine right now, but if you think back to what was being said about the 18-year-old Andrus when Atlanta willingly traded him to the Rangers, there are similarities to what's being said about the 17-year-old Profar now. Tools, makeup, maturity, production against older competition, fastness of track. Is it out of the question? If nothing else, Profar could always slide over to second (just as Kinsler did) and break into the big leagues that way.
Maybe Profar is this club's next second baseman.
Or its next shortstop.
That's where none of us is really qualified to weigh in on whether Texas should include Profar in a trade with the Royals. If you trust your team's scouts and advisors and GM, now's the time to call upon that trust, and rely on them to make the right decision. Scouts are the reason Kansas City must want the kid so badly, and why the Rangers are apparently reluctant to include him in the deal, even if it were to bring a number one starter back.
But the point of all this is that there could be a number of reasons Texas may not want to trade Profar, at least not now, even if his path to the big leagues is blocked, if he stays with this organization, by the best young position player on the team.