Rookie second baseman Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers laughs after a teammate smeared shaving cream on his face in celebration after Profar was 2-for-4 with a home run during his MLB debut against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Saturday, hot prospect Jurickson Profar debuted with the Rangers and homered in his first at-bat in the majors. But considering the club's long-term contract commitments, nobody seems to know where Profar's future lies.
There used to be a saying in the English-speaking world ... taking coals to Newcastle.
Now most famous for Newcastle Brown Ale and the Newcastle United football club, Newcastle was granted a sort of coal monopoly in the 16th Century; thus, "taking coals to Newcastle" became a metaphor for redundancy, for sending a commodity somewhere that's already got that commodity in abundance.
You don't often see that phrase any more, but it was still common in the middle of the 20th Century. Or so I've read.
There were, entering this season, two brilliant 19-year-old shortstops ticketed for the minor leagues. There are still two, the same two: Texas's Jurickson Profar and Baltimore's Manny Machado. The Orioles have a place for Machado, already. The Rangers do not have an obvious place for Profar, because of course they've already got a great young (if not as ridiculously young) shortstop in Elvis Andrus.
Nevertheless, last weekend the Rangers summoned Profar from the minors. Sunday, he debuted in the majors and, in his very first at-bat, hit a home run. Which led to an obvious question.
Considering that the Rangers already have a really good shortstop, and considering they've also got a second baseman with a long, long-term contract, what on Earth should the Rangers do with Jurickson Profar? Right now, it seems that he'll fill in here and there, and probably won't play a big role -- if he's on the roster at all -- during the Rangers' postseason run.
Still, it's hard to avoid wondering what Jurickson's future looks like, in 2013 and beyond. And it's not easy to figure, considering all the moving parts. Here are a few of the players who bear upon this matter, with the last season they're under team control and the amount of money they'll make from 2013 through that last season ...
You know what, though? I could have included a bunch of other guys, too. Outfielders. Because it's perfectly conceivable that one of those guys moves to the outfield, replacing one of the current outfielders I haven't mentioned. In the short term, though, Craig Gentry and Nelson Cruz are locked up through next season. Josh Hamilton isn't, but if he leaves he'll presumably be replaced by hot prospect Leonys Martin, who has torn up the Pacific Coast League this season.
In the short term, of course, the Rangers don't have to do anything at all. Nothing difficult, anyway. At the moment, Profar's a spare part and that's all he should be. His numbers in Class AA this season were outstanding for a 19-year-old shortstop, of course. But what do those numbers look like in the majors? Less than stellar, we may assume. Better than what Michael Young's done this season? Sure. But if the goal is to get Young out of the lineup, that slot should go to Leonys Martín rather than Profar. In the short term.
In the same vein, there's no immediate need to do anything at all with Profar, except send him to Triple-A Round Rock next spring. There's nothing wrong with maybe delaying the starting of arbitration clock for an extra year, and there's nothing with seeing if maybe Michael Young can remember how to hit. Considering, you know, he's going to earn $16 million next season.
Really, that's the easy part. The hard part comes later, when it's clear that Profar's ready to post big numbers in the Big Boy League, and Andrus is still under team control. With Young gone, one way or the other, Kinsler could become the DH (even without the numbers you'd like to see), with Profar taking over at second base. But is that the best use of Profar's considerable talents? Or should the Rangers trade Andrus this winter -- with his value still extraordinarily high -- and hand Profar the shortstop job, caution flung into the wind?
Maybe there is a right answer. But even if there is, it would be difficult to navigate the required path through the thicket of relevant contracts and players and agents and egos and front-office executives, all of them with a stake in the proceedings.
Which is what the Rangers will probably do what teams usually do in these situations: Nothing. It's easier to sit on your hands, and serve at the mercy of the Fates. If Andrus or Kinsler gets hurt sometime between now and Opening Day 2014, problem solved! (Sort of.)
If Michael Young, everybody's favorite team player, retires à la Gil Meche, problem solved.
In the medium term. In the long term, the Rangers probably will have to decide who they want playing shortstop in 2014 and (maybe) beyond. But a lot can happen before they make that decision. They do have to decide, though, if they want to make that decision, or have it made for them.