Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler has a vesting clause in his contract that would guarantee his 2018 salary at $11 million when he reaches 600 plate appearances for the 2017 season. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the previously unrevealed contract details on Twitter.
Kinsler also has a clause that will pay him an extra $1 million salary in 2018 should he win a Gold Glove this season. While his production at the plate has dropped sharply, he leads the American League in ultimate zone rating (UZR) and defensive runs saved (DRS), so a Gold Glove is entirely possible.
Kinsler’s contract, which has paid him an average annual value of $15 million per season and a salary of $11 million in 2017, has a club option for 2018 that would pay him a salary of $10 million. The club could buy out his option for $5 million and let him walk as a free agent. This much has been known for quite some time. The vesting clause was not, though. The contract was negotiated with the Texas Rangers before Kinsler was traded to Detroit.
Kinsler currently has 522 plate appearances this year, leaving him 78 shy of 600 with 24 games remaining. Only a significant absence down the stretch would deny him the milestone.
Should Kinsler fall shy of 600 plate appearances, the Tigers would almost surely exercise the option anyway, since his $10 or $11 million salary would be only $5 or $6 million more than the buyout. Also, he would have greater value than that either to Detroit or on the trade market.
The Tigers would also receive a modest tax rebate by either exercising Kinsler’s option or having it vest for 2018. This is because the $5 million buyout has been factored into the average annual salary, which is used to calculate payroll for tax purposes. The rebate would apply to any year that the Tigers paid a luxury tax, including 2016 and 2017.