Yesterday I went on a Twitter rant responding to an article that our own Jon Erkkila wrote in regards to trading Ian Kinsler. I think that anyone that initially read my tweets could see the point that I was trying to make, but I wasn't able to give a whole lot of detail as to why I held my opinion. A short 140 characters is fine when all I'm trying to do is say "FIRE AUSMUS," but it is not nearly enough to do an entire analysis of a topic.
In order to discuss my thoughts on the possibility of trading Ian Kinsler, I am going to analyze and expand on my initial argument tweet for tweet.
Why not? Kinsler is a 32 yr. old middle infielder coming off career year defensively.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
Ian Kinsler is a 32 year old second baseman that is coming off of what was arguably the best year of his career defensively. His 13.0 UZR is second to the 16.0 UZR he put up in 2011 with the Rangers, while his 20 defensive runs saved is second to 2009 where he was worth 22 DRS.
Kinsler was garbage at the plate the second half of the season. His defense was stellar, but he's aging. His defense is bound to regress.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
Garbage? I might have been a little harsh with that one. Let me crunch the numbers real quick...
Wait, he put up a line of .239/.270/.357 after the All Star break? Yep, I stand by my initial analysis of comparing his second half performance at the plate to trash. There was no reason to keep him as the leadoff man as the Tigers got deeper into the pennant race. What good is a table setter that can't get on base?
Again, given the metrics, his defense was outstanding by all means, but middle infield defense generally regresses faster than any other position that isn't behind the plate or two hundred plus feet directly behind second base. In nine seasons at second base, Kinsler has solidified himself as one of the premier defenders of the league, but it's not safe to assume that he will ever be worth 20+ DRS or 10+ UZR considering he's on the wrong side of 30. That isn't a knock on him, that's a reality of aging.
Even the ageless Omar Vizquel started to decline defensively as he got into his mid thirties. Not enough to become a burden at his position, but he only had one season in his thirties where he was worth 15+ DRS and 10+ UZR.
I loved Ian Kinsler last season. He was worth nearly 6 wins as a player, but that's not going to happen probably ever again.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
I honestly meant that I loved Ian Kinsler in the 2014 season. I still love him as a player. Overall, he was the Tigers most complete player. He also seemed like a total prick on the field, which is awesome because he is someone you hate to play against, but someone you love to have on your team.
Kinsler was worth 5.5 fWAR in 2015, the second highest mark of his career. The highest mark of his career came in 2011 in Texas where he was worth 7.3 fWAR. That year he put up similar defensive numbers (18 DRS, 16.0 UZR), but was worth 123 wRC+ that year as opposed to the 102 he was worth this season. Kinsler was actually on pace for another seven-win season before the All Star break (125 wRC+ in the first half), but his 72 wRC+ in the second half derailed him from reaching that mark. This might surprise some of you, but if Ian Kinsler kept on the same tracks in the second half as he was on in the first half, he would have made a very legitimate run at the American League Most Valuable Player award. Only one player in all of Major League Baseball was worth about seven wins on Fangraphs, and that was baseball's wonder-boy, Mike Trout.
The reason I say it probably won't happen again is because I think the offensive numbers he put up in the first half of the season were partially a fluke. Kinsler is a dead pull hitter that has an abnormally high pop up rate. Unless he makes some adjustments in his swing where he can consistently drive the ball to all fields, Kinsler will continue to put up underwhelming numbers at the plate.
If the Tigers can find a deal where they get a good return to set themselves up for the future, then yes, they should move Kinsler.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
However, if the Tigers don't get a good offer on Kinsler, then keep him. He'll be a solid 3-4 win player next year.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
Basically, the Tigers could profit from trading Kinsler, but only if they get something young/good/cost effective in return.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
There is no reason to trade him for the sake of unloading him. His contract gets cheaper after 2015 anyway.— Cameron J. Kaiser (@TTownTiger) November 11, 2014
These last four tweets are a redundant, so I will analyze them all together.
A lot of things have to happen in order for it to be worth the Tigers trading Ian Kinsler. I'm talking something like the stars all aligning perfectly... There is a very small chance of that happening, but this is baseball, a sport where anything can and will happen.
According to the Steamer Projection, Kinsler will be worth 3.9 fWAR next season, so my prediction of him being a three-to-four win player next year is sound. They project he will be marginally better on offense next year, but play in less games. They also project that his defensive value will drop, which is a fair assessment due to aging and natural regression. Kinsler will make $16 million in 2015, but his contract drops to $14 million in 2016, $11 million in 2017, and he has a $10 million option for 2018 with a $5 million buyout. While that isn't a contract that many teams are going to want to take on for a mid-thirties middle infielder, it shouldn't be a giant burden considering the dollar amount decreases after next year.
The Tigers have a lot of holes to plug going into 2015, and trading Ian Kinsler would almost surely shore up at least a few of those. It would be great if the Tigers could use Kinsler to acquire a good young center fielder and a few bullpen arms, but the chances of that happening are low. Again, it could happen, it's just that it isn't likely. If a mystery team comes out of the blue and offers all of that to the Tigers, it would be silly not to at least listen.
However, losing Kinsler would also create a hole in of itself. Despite the Tigers having lots of middle infield depth, no one in their system is even as close to being as good as Ian Kinsler. Having Eugenio Suarez and Hernan Perez split time at second isn't a terrible idea, but there is virtually no chance of them producing at the same level as Kinsler both offensively and defensively.
That is why I say if the Tigers trade Kinsler, it's going to have to be a deal that offsets the four wins he will most likely be worth in 2015, while cutting a significant chunk of payroll. For the sake of argument, let's say Saurez and Perez are worth one win combined in 2015. What that means is that the Tigers will need to acquire at least three wins in the form of a center fielder, and hopefully more marginal value in the form of a reliever or two. My point is that the Tigers will need to acquire instant value that will help the team now, and also be cost effective.
The Tigers should definitely listen to calls on Ian Kinsler, but it should not be a priority to move him unless the perfect deal presents itself. That deal very well could be out there, but it probably isn't. You never know, though. This team is run by Dave Dombrowski. Anything can happen.