Ian Kinsler has been the most consistent two way player on the Detroit Tigers’ roster for the past several seasons. He — alongside Justin Upton — is arguably one of only two players in Detroit’s lineup who can hit and field his position above average. Still, as stated previously here and elsewhere, there just isn’t much of a trade market for second basemen at the moment. Here is the trade profile of Ian Kinsler:
Contract: Kinsler is in the final year of a five year, $75 million contract that he signed with the Texas rangers in 2013. There is a team option for $10 million* for the 2018 season, with a $5 million buyout. His salary in 2017 is $11 M, or $3.67 M for the last two months of the season, but his AAV** for Detroit is $15M in 2017 and $10 M in 2018 if his option is picked up.
Trade limitations: Kinsler can block trades to ten teams. We don’t know the full list, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are one of them, according to reports that came out last winter when they inquired about trading for Kinsler. That still leaves 19 MLB clubs where he can be traded without his consent, or incentives to buy his consent.
Why he should be traded: Kinsler has been very productive every season since the Tigers acquired him for Prince Fielder before the 2014 season. Despite a down season at the plate, he still ranks in the top five second basemen in the American league in WAR and is the top defender, according to fangraphs.com. For his level of production, his contract is a bargain.
We’ve covered the two players on the Tigers’ roster who will be free agents after this season. J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila have to be traded, rather than letting them walk away for little or nothing. Two more players, those being Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez, have a team option for 2018. Those two, along with Justin Wilson and Jose Iglesias, should be next on the list of trade candidates. It has been a foregone conclusion for quite some time now that the Tigers will decline the $16 million option on Sanchez and pick up the option on Kinsler.
Why he may not be traded: The Tigers don’t have to trade their lead off hitter and best two way player. He has a year left before free agency, so if the market is not right, they can keep him and explore trades later on.
If you go down the list of contenders, they all seem pretty well set at the keystone position. There was a need last winter with the Dodgers, but they acquired Logan Forsythe, who will be a free agent after the season. Should an injury create an opening, things could change, but there is no obvious landing spot for a second baseman at the time of writing.
Kinsler’s agent, Jay Franklin, was unequivocal about using his no trade clause for maximum advantage: “If one of the 10 teams happens to call and wants to talk about it, we’re open to talking about it,” he said. “[But] they’re going to have to extend him for us to waive the no-trade.”
The rules regarding luxury taxes also work in the Tigers’ favor with Kinsler. If they trade him, another $15 million in AAV will come off the books for tax purposes. If they pick up his option, his AAV drops by $5 million in 2018, plus — get this — the Tigers will be credited another $5 million since a buyout is assumed and has been factored in over the life of the contract. If you’re doing the math, that’s a $10 million savings that can be applied to arbitration increases or player acquisitions, for example.
From a fan’s perspective, there is no benefit to unloading salaries beyond getting below the tax threshold, unless that creates flexibility to spend on other players. Unloading $3.6 million in salary this season is no help, and Kinsler is a bargain at $10 million, even in a down year. If he can be traded for a player who will start the next five years, okay. Otherwise, he should be leading off for Detroit on Opening Day 2018.
*- Cot’s Contracts shows Kinsler’s 2018 option at $ 10 million, while Spotrac and Baseball_Reference list the option at $ 12 million.
**- AAV is average annual value, the average salary over the term of a multi year contract is used when calculating team payroll for luxury tax purposes