Breaking up is hard to do, but Texas Rangers made right move at shortstop | Analysis

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The relationship had become complicated. Money was involved. There was a new player, younger, and it was time to make a decision.

The Texas Rangers went with Isiah Kiner-Falefa in November, moving veteran Elvis Andrus off shortstop. Then came the breakup in February, when they traded Andrus to the Oakland A’s.

As a player with no-trade rights, Andrus had to agree to the deal. It was the best move for his career, a chance to play regularly and for a contending team.

Kiner-Falefa is holding up his end of the deal, too.

He has been an upgrade at one of the most important positions on the field, with the bat and with the glove. He hasn’t been too shabby on the bases, either.

So far, after 72 games, the swap is working out as the Rangers envisioned.

“We felt like answering that question about whether Izzy could continue his play that he had in the 60-game season at third base over 162 at shortstop was really important to us from a planning standpoint,” president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said.

“We’re 70 or so games in and he’s done just that, and really taken a step offensively. His base running is still great. He’s handled the slightly more challenging position without any hiccups there. It’s an obvious statement, but he’s been one of the bright spots, and we’re really pleased with where he’s at.”

Andrus made his first appearance in an A’s uniform against the Rangers on Monday night at Globe Life Field. The four-game series ends Thursday afternoon.

Kiner-Falefa enters Tuesday with a 17-game on-base streak as the Rangers’ leadoff hitter. His six home runs and 15 stolen bases this season are career-highs, and his .289 batting average is the best on the team.

His 84 hits and 15 steals lead all American League shortstops, yet he isn’t even in the top 10 in voting for the All-Star Game.

Kiner-Falefa also isn’t short on bravado. When asked what his reaction would be if the Rangers were to sign a big-name free-agent shortstop in the offseason, he said there’s no one out there who would be an upgrade defensively.

He would consider moving off shortstop, though, if that player would make the team better because “I want to win.” He also wants to play every day after being told for years that he would be nothing more than a utility player.

That’s where he appeared to be headed last spring before emerging as the best third baseman in Summer Camp. He was so good that he won a Gold Glove, but before he did he told the Rangers that he was their best shortstop.

Maybe that made club brass think about unseating Andrus. Kiner-Falefa has backed it up, with, he said, an assist to Andrus.

“He’s been such a big influence on my career and helping me to be who I am today, so I can only be thankful for what he showed me and what he’s done for me,” Kiner-Falefa said. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be thriving where I am right now.”

Andrus said that he hasn’t kept close tabs on the Rangers, but he knew that Kiner-Falefa is having a good season. Andrus holds no ill will toward Kiner-Falefa or anyone with the Rangers, knowing that baseball is a business.

“We all knew how good of a player he is,” Andrus said.

He’s been better than Andrus, justifying the Rangers’ difficult decision to move on from a franchise great. Andrus is batting only .220 with no home runs and only 14 RBIs, but he has been better of late and the A’s are a playoff contender.

Andrus is happy, professionally speaking. So are the Rangers.

“His team is playing well, and I’m happy for him,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I’m happy he’s getting that opportunity that he wanted here.”

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