The Los Angeles Dodgers have been looking for a new second baseman all winter long. They showed interest in Detroit’s Ian Kinsler early on, but Kinsler’s agent was quick to interject with his client’s demands. Notably, Kinsler wants a contract extension in exchange for waiving his partial no-trade clause. Regardless of how close a deal was to fruition, those demands halted trade talks between the two parties.
The Dodgers turned their attention to Minnesota’s Brian Dozier, but were unable to strike a deal. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers and Twins are far enough apart that trade talks “are at an impasse.” With spring training inching closer, the Dodgers are expected to circle back to previous targets like Kinsler and Logan Forsythe of the Tampa Bay Rays. Rosenthal notes that there are some stopgap options on the free agent market, but the superior performance of Kinsler and Forsythe — and their offensive acumen from the right side — might tempt the Dodgers to part with prospects to fill their biggest void.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Kinsler’s value is as high as it gets right now. He is coming off four consecutive five-win seasons (in terms of rWAR) and has two very affordable years remaining on his contract. He is due just $23 million over the next two seasons, after which he becomes a free agent. He has a partial no-trade clause, which is a wrinkle that drags his value down somewhat. However, the Dodgers should have the financial flexibility to offer an extension, especially as they clear more dead money off their books over the next couple years. Los Angeles may even look to sharply overpay for one year instead of giving him a multi-year contract.
It may be in the Tigers’ best interest to trade Kinsler this offseason if they get enough talent in return. Kinsler has avoided the sharp regression typical of many middle infielders so far — he hit a robust .288/.348/.484 last season and has a 113 OPS+ in a Tigers uniform — but is entering his age-35 season in 2017. Coupled with his defensive value, Kinsler has a long way to fall. However, a slow start next season could sap a lot of his trade value, especially if he continues to hold out for a contract extension. Even with his no-trade clause in the way, dealing him (and others) in the coming weeks could be in the Tigers’ best long-term interests.
On the other hand, trading Kinsler now makes the Tigers a much worse team in 2017, presumably their last real gasp at a playoff run. Even if the Tigers get a ready-made center fielder in return, replacing Kinsler’s five-win production would be nearly impossible without a monumental trade return. The Dodgers have a stable of talented prospects, but none that look primed for stardom next season. The Tigers also don’t have as much use for righthander Jose De Leon, the rumored centerpiece of Los Angeles’ negotiations with the Twins.
It’s important to note that all of this chatter is still just speculation. No one has reported any recent trade talks between the Tigers and Dodgers, and while I largely brushed off Kinsler’s no-trade clause above, it’s still likely to be a major sticking point between the two sides. Considering that and Detroit’s desire to compete for a playoff spot next season, I don’t consider a Kinsler deal very likely to happen. However, just like the trade that brought Kinsler to Detroit in the first place, anything can happen on a moment’s notice.