After a decade manning the shortstop position for Texas, de facto team leader and longest-tenured Ranger Elvis Andrus will have a new home on the diamond next season.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that the team is moving Isiah Kiner-Falefa to shortstop for the 2021 season.
Jon Daniels confirms the Rangers want Isiah Kiner-Falefa to play SS. Elvis Andrus has been asked to play all infield positions.
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) December 1, 2020
The move is interesting for several reasons- one, Kiner-Falefa has flashed elite defense at third base- so much that he was honored as a Gold Glove Winner for the abbreviated 2020 season- the first Ranger to earn that distinction since Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland were named winners in 2016.
Grant is also reporting that the team will transition the 32-year-old Andrus to a utility infield role for next season- despite the fact that he’s only played shortstop at every level besides A-ball. Andrus was listed as a backup to Ian Kinsler at second base at the start of the 2009 season, but eventually won the starting shortstop position over Omar Vizquel that season and never looked back.
Prior, Texas appeared to have the left side of its infield locked down, the move now opens the door for a host of possibilities in filling Kiner-Falefa’s spot at third base.
Andrus could fill the role if his defensive progression goes well, but his offensive production at the plate has steadily declined since an All-Star caliber 2017 campaign- with his once ever-reliable defensive prowess teetering off with it. Another option is Rougned Odor, who has also been asked to play other positions. According to Grant, whether or not he returns as the starter will depend on Nick Solak’s transition to play the second base defensively.
Among other in-house options, Anderson Tejada showed promise at the plate, posting a .726 OPS in just 75 plate appearances. Joey Gallo has previously expressed disdain for the position- and has suffered several nagging injuries in the field in recent years. He also proved his worth in the field this season, garnering the Gold Glove at his now-familiar center field position.
Whoever the team turns to, the Rangers are still set to kick off the 2021 season on time in Spring Training on Feb. 27, 2021 even with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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