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02/08/12 7:06 PM EST

Rangers, Andrus agree to three-year deal

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have signed Elvis Andrus to a three-year, $14.4 million contract so they could avoid three years of arbitration. They also signed him to the new contract in the belief that they have not yet seen the best of their 23-year-old shortstop.

"Elvis represents everything we want the Texas Rangers to be about," assistant general manager Thad Levine said on a conference calling announcing the deal Wednesday. "He's a young player with extreme upside with a ton of enthusiasm and a ton of ability. He has been a big part of our playoff run the past two years.

"We feel his energy and enthusiasm represent the personality of our club. He has put a lot into his career so far and we feel his best years are ahead of him. We're excited to see how those years will unfold."

Andrus, who was a member of the American League All-Star team in 2010, has been good so far. He batted .279 this past season in his third year as the Rangers' starting shortstop and finished with 96 runs scored, 27 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 60 RBIs. He led the club and was fifth in the American League in stolen bases, with 37.

But he agreed that he can get better. Defense is still considered his best asset but he led all American League shortstops with 25 errors. He still went the final 33 games without committing an error.

"I'm still learning every day," Andrus said. "I have been learning the past three years, especially the mental part of the game. I feel my best years are ahead of me. I'm getting stronger, I'm getting to know myself and getting to know my offense. I'm trying to get better every year and if I stay healthy, I will."

Andrus, who has three years of service time, was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Thursday. Instead, this will allow him to avoid that both this winter and the next two offseasons as well.

Andrus agreed to a $750,000 signing bonus and a salary of $2,375,000 in 2012. That will go up to $4.8 million in 2013 and $6,475,000 in 2014.

"This was something I was looking forward to, especially for my family," Andrus said. "I wanted to get some security at this point in my career, so I'm excited to get this deal done. For the next three years I can keep doing as much as I can to help this team keeping having success."

Andrus, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, is still eligible to be a free agent after the 2014 season. The Rangers acquired him from the Braves in 2007 and he made his Major League debut in 2009.

"We have been upfront about wanting to sign some of our core players to contract extensions that will cut into free agency," Levine said. "Elvis is one of those guys and we've had ongoing discussions with Elvis and his representatives. We don't believe signing Elvis to a three-year deal precludes us from continuing that dialogue."

The Rangers have two arbitration cases still unsettled. They are scheduled to have a hearing with Mike Napoli on Feb. 15 and with Nelson Cruz on Feb. 17. Both are scheduled to be held in Tampa, Fla.

Napoli is asking for $11.5 million, with the Rangers offering $8.3 million. Cruz is asking for $7.5 million and is being offered $5.5 million. The Rangers have not had an actual arbitration hearing with a player since Lee Stevens in 2000.

"We're still having dialogues with their agents and hopefully we can have a conference call with them in the near future," Levine said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.