Profar could be Rangers' best trade chip

Profar could be Rangers' best trade chip

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are talking to other clubs about acquiring starting pitching, and it is clear utility infielder Jurickson Profar could be their best bargaining chip.

That was one of the issues the Rangers were deliberating as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approached last summer, and it continued this week at the General Managers Meetings in Arizona.

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Profar's future with the Rangers remains murky as the offseason commences. On one hand, Texas needs starting pitching and Profar could be its most expendable player. But the Rangers have seen the value of having versatile players who can play multiple positions.

The most obvious example is Ben Zobrist, who was the World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner for the Cubs. Zobrist is an 11-year veteran who began his Major League career as a shortstop, but he has shown the ability to play multiple positions. In each of the past nine years, Zobrist has started at least 20 games in both the infield and the outfield.

That's an asset Profar might be able to provide for Texas. He started in 67 games for the Rangers in 2016, including 16 at third base, 15 at second base, 13 at first base and 10 at shortstop. Profar also started eight in left field and five at designated hitter.

Profar's solo home run

"I think he could play every day at a variety of spots," said Rangers president of baseball operations and general manager Jon Daniels said. "I think he can play regularly or semi-regularly and move around. It's really going to depend on the makeup of the club."

Profar has made his desire to be an everyday shortstop well-known in multiple conversations during the season. He was willing to be used as a utility infielder in 2016 after missing two seasons because of a torn muscle in his right shoulder.

"That's a conversation we'll have as we get a little deeper in the offseason and have a better understanding of what it looks like," Daniels said. "I think he wants to win. I understand he wants to play shortstop every day. Maybe there are scenarios where he does. But we are tasked with putting the best team together. We are tasked with winning and putting our guys in the best position to succeed. We have to put all those things into consideration."

The Rangers are set with Adrian Beltre at third, Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Rougned Odor at second. Beltre is going nowhere. Andrus, 28, still has six years and $88 million left on his contract, so it would be difficult to trade him, even though he is coming off his best offensive season.

Rangers' plans for the offseason

Odor would be a huge trade chip, especially if the Rangers re-engage with the White Sox about left-hander Chris Sale. Odor, 22, is coming off an outstanding season and still has four years left before being eligible for free agency. But he also led the team with 33 home runs and Texas already stands to lose significant offensive firepower with Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland and Carlos Gomez becoming free agents.

Profar could also be a candidate to replace Moreland at first base even if he isn't the stereotypical player for the position.

Profar, playing in the big leagues for the first time since 2013, played in 90 games for the Rangers this past season, hitting .239 with 35 runs scored, five home runs and 20 RBIs. He had a .321 on-base percentage and a .338 slugging percentage.

All of that came after being out two years, playing multiple positions and getting irregular playing time. Profar is still just 23 and his baseball aptitude is off the charts for a player of his age.

Profar's diving catch on a bunt

"Looking back at where we were a year ago at this time, two years ago, we are thrilled with the year that he had," Daniels said. "Huge contribution after not playing for two years because of his shoulder issues and surgery. As we sit here today, I expect him to be a part of the club in a winning role. Is there an everyday job the way we are set up now? I don't know.

"But I look around at our team, I look at other teams, the role he played for us this year, there are a lot of players. Are they everyday players or not? It's almost as if that line has been blurred a little bit the way the game is played and the way managers are using their rosters."

Before his injuries, Profar was ranked as the top prospect in all of the Minor Leagues. This offseason will determine how much of a chance he gets to fulfill that vast potential in Texas.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.