Before we get into the brilliant insight below (and Rob's comments), a little context. Over the past couple weeks, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News has started beating an interesting drum.
Tigers can (must) also trade Kinsler at some point in 2014. Devon Travis likely ready for 2B work in Detroit by some stage of 2015.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) June 18, 2014
Henning has followed this initial comment with a bit more insight, but the question he raises is an interesting one. Would the Tigers benefit from trading Ian Kinsler?
Rob: I guess we could just dive right in. While I realize that there's a right price for everything, I just don't see how the Tigers would recoup enough value by trading Kinsler. Any concerns that people had about him being on the downswing of his career have been thoroughly shot down, as he is tied for the team lead with 3.5 WAR. He's doing everything the Tigers could have hoped for when they traded for him last November, and making his $16 million contract look like a bargain in the process.
Jon: We need to enjoy 2014 first, but change is coming to the Tigers in 2015. How sweeping will it be? Scherzer looks to be gone, Hunter almost certainly, Victor Martinez can be a free agent and it's a debate for another day if he should get a multi-year extension. We don't know if J.D. Martinez turns back into a pumpkin.
If the Tigers feel they can get by with a middle infield of Suarez/Iglesias, maybe moving Kinsler to try and find corner outfield power could be a move worth investigating. The free agent market doesn't look deep ... the trade market could be their avenue.
Kinsler is a fine player. I'm not beating the drum to move him. But the glut of youngsters they have is up the middle. If they can get get a bat for right-field with some power in some type of deal, I could see it. (Don't want Fister Trade Redux though! They need to get a guy who is ready if they move Kinsler)
R: You bring up a couple of excellent great points, particularly how different this roster will look in 2015. I would assume that the Tigers will do everything in their power to get Victor back next year, but the outfield is a gigantic question mark. Moving Kinsler to left field would effectively fill the void left by Hunter's departure and J.D.'s decline. While changing positions is nowhere near as simple as many people think — something we saw with Jhonny Peralta last fall — Kinsler seems like the kind of player that could adjust on the fly.
However, who plays second base? Would it be Eugenio Suarez? Devon Travis? Hernan Perez? Or someone else? Lynn Henning's sticking point with a potential Kinsler trade is that someone in the system (Travis, in particular) would be able to fill the void without too severe of a dropoff, but I'm not convinced. This also assumes that Jose Iglesias will stay healthy and be effective after missing an entire season.
Let's play along for a bit, though. What would your ideal return look like in a Kinsler trade?
J: Yep. Which youngster is ready to roll? The Tigers would be taking a leap of faith, but they are holding up with two rookies in their infield now.
I'd be cool with moving Kinsler to LF, but he is a quality infielder. I think you're burning some of his value if you move him. Plus I think he resisted the idea in Texas when they had Profar and Andrus.
If you don't want to move Kinsler, then I think you keep him at second and figure out which of the two Cuban outfielders they should chase. Rusney Castillo or Yasmani Tomas.
As far as dealing Kinsler? If you want to go young, then maybe you talk to the Dodgers and try to pry loose Joc Pederson. If you want a vet, then maybe it's a guy like Allen Craig (in a package) from St. Louis or Cespedes from Oakland. Cespedes will be in his walk year, so Oakland might move him for a locked up asset like Kinsler.
R: I agree that Kinsler is best left alone at second base, particularly because finding a solid corner outfielder is much easier than finding a second baseman. Heck, we've seen guys like Matt Tuiasosopo and Brennan Boesch perform at an All-Star level in short spurts. There are a few intriguing names that will be on the market this offseason that could fetch similar money to what Torii Hunter is making right now.
Getting back to the Kinsler trade idea, I think that you have to get someone younger in return. Think along the lines of the Curtis Granderson deal, where the Tigers were able to defy the "always get the proven player" mantra that Eno touched on last weekend. It amazes me that Dave Dombrowski was able to essentially turn Curtis Granderson and Matt Joyce into 39.4 WAR (and counting) over the past five seasons. I don't know if lightning will strike twice, though.
Here's a thought: Does a Kinsler trade become more likely if the Tigers win the World Series in 2014?
J: So you win the World Series ... does the temptation to "keep the band together" overwhelm all else? If that applies to Kinsler, does it apply to a mega-offer for Scherzer or an extra year on a V-Mart deal? I think being whisked away by the emotion is something Dombrowski can resist (though I do believe they will make one more run at inking Scherzer — probably unsuccessfully).
I think you keep making good baseball decisions based on what you think will happen coming up, not based on what just happened.
Maybe winning it all allows you to make whatever move you deem fit under cover of the afterglow of winning it all.
R: I think that there are two sides to that coin. On one hand, you can see the impact that Jacoby Ellsbury had on the Boston Red Sox. Kinsler is a similar player, though probably not as vital to the team's offensive success as Ellsbury was in Beantown.
On the other hand, does a team overpay for Kinsler (a la Ellsbury's gaudy contract with the Yankees) if the Tigers win it all? Maybe Dombrowski, fresh off the title that this fanbase craves, is able to sell high on Kinsler to a GM desperate to get his team "over the hump." Frank Wren of the Atlanta Braves comes to mind, especially if rookie second baseman Tommy La Stella falters down the stretch.
J: I felt going into last off-season that big change was looming. Which certainly happened! I believe this off-season could easily rank up there with it. The Tigers have plenty of moving parts. That's why I didn't want to dismiss the idea of dealing Kinsler casually to the side. I'm not all for trading him because I do like him. But tell us what the deal is, it could be good. I'm open minded.
"If you're staying the same, you're getting worse." I believe in that. It won't be a status quo off-season.
By the way, if the Tigers had held onto Jake Thompson and Cory Knebel, could they have weaseled into the Troy Tulowitzki Derby with a few of their other guys in the mix? Hmmm. A topic for another day!