Just days after Ian Kinsler was robbed of a Gold Glove — and the $1MM incentive bonus that accompanies the award — it’s time to discuss which team he might be playing for in 2018.
The MLB General Managers meetings have begun and the Detroit Tigers have begun laying the foundation for a deal involving Kinsler. Following a flurry of mid-season trades involving veterans such as Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Alex Avila, Justin Wilson, and J.D. Martinez, it appears the Tigers are preparing to finish moving their most valuable assets. One of which could be Ian Kinsler.
A four-year veteran in Detroit, Kinsler regressed in almost every offensive category in 2017. While he did play in less games, he also hit fewer home runs, doubles, and triples, had fewer RBI’s, scored fewer runs and hit for a lower batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS than he did in his 2016 campaign. Possibly the only offensive improvement in Kinsler’s 2017 season was his ability to strike out significantly less and walk slightly more than he did in 2016.
The former All-Star second baseman, soon to be 36 years old, could be labeled as a bounce back candidate by some teams. His contract could also be viewed as favorable seeing as he is set to become a free agent following the 2018 season. While he does have a ten team no trade clause which could pose a potential hiccup, he may also choose to waive that if the right situation or team came to the table.
Los Angeles Angels
The most obvious landing spot for Kinsler this off season would be the Los Angeles Angels. As we’ve recently discussed, the team has shown an active interest in him. After trading for and resigning Justin Upton, it appears the Angels are committed to not wasting Mike Trout’s years in L.A. (stop me if you’ve heard that one before). They have an obvious void at second base after running out Danny Espinosa and Kaleb Cowart in 2017.
The Angels had the lowest WAR from the second base position in the major leagues last season. The various Angels second basemen hit .206/.327/.601 which ranks 30th, 29th and 30th respectively in the MLB in 2016. Defensively, the Angels did not see much production at second base, registering the 13th worst DRS average at the position at -1.
L.A. is a likely landing spot for Kinsler not only because they need an offensive upgrade at second base, but they are also in need of a lead-off hitter. The Angels rotated through several lead-off hitters last season, including Yunel Escobar, Cameron Maybin, Andrelton Simmons, Ben Revere, Brandon Phillips and Cole Calhoun. None of those players were particularly great lead-off hitters, and several are no longer on the Angels roster. Kinsler, who has had the number one position in the lineup in Detroit since his arrival, would fill two areas of need in L.A.
Should the Angels choose to go a different route, Kinsler could also land in the spot he was most often linked to last season, Milwaukee. After months of speculation that the Milwaukee Brewers would acquire Kinsler, the team instead opted to deal with current free agent second baseman Neil Walker. The Brewers proceeded to fall short of the playoffs, and may not want to repeat their mistake in 2018.
The Brewers 2017 second base production was slightly above that of the Angels. Milwaukee’s second basemen posted a 1.5 WAR, good for 21st in the majors. The crew of Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard, Hernan Perez and the aforementioned Walker hit only 15 home runs and posted a .248/.373/.701 average when fielding the position. Kinsler would provide some much needed power to the Brewers lineup, should he bounce back in 2018. He would also be an affordable trade option for the Brewers, who likely do not have much to dispose of in terms of major league talent. They do however have the mid-level prospects Al Avila would expect for Kinsler (don’t hold your breath for Lewis Brinson, Corey Ray or Luis Ortiz).
Toronto Blue Jays
Rumblings have come from the Toronto Blue Jays during the GM meetings saying they are interested in adding a middle infielder to relieve the often injured pairing of Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis (can we have him back please?). While Kinsler will never be a shortstop, he would be an upgrade over utility infielder Ryan Goins, who filled in for parts of last season.
Teams seeking a third baseman
There is always the possibility of a team trading for Kinsler with the thought he might be open to a position change. To be honest, once he is acquired by another team, it doesn’t matter what that team does with him, so why not get crazy?
The San Francisco Giants seem to want to make their rebuild a quick one. They are rumored to be going after Giancarlo Stanton, and if they want to further bolster their lineup, Kinsler would be an upgrade at third base over Pablo Sandovol.
He would also be a better third base option for the New York Yankees than their current choice, Chase Headley. Kinsler would be extra attractive to the Yanks because his expiring contract does not interfere with their reported plan to make a big slash in 2019 free agency.
There are also teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers who like versatile players. Not to mention they have boatload of cash. After the departure of Chase Utley, perhaps they looks to add another veteran second baseman to platoon with Logan Forsythe. In this theoretical world where Kinsler opts to play his first games at third base, he would be an attractive player to the Dodgers, who are known for using their starters in multiple positions throughout the season.
There should be no shortage of suitors for Ian Kinsler this off season. With the ground work apperently already being laid out, Kinsler will likely not be on the Tigers roster when General Manager Al Avila departs the Winter Meetings next month.