With the Detroit Tigers in a full rebuild, more trades are expected to come this offseason. One of the biggest trade chips the Tigers have remaining on their roster is second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Rumors have been swirling since the trade-deadline involving Kinsler. Nearly four months later, he is still on the team. With him only having one year remaining on his contract, it makes sense for the Tigers to move Kinsler sometime this winter.
Kinsler is 35 years old now and is owed $11 million in the 2018 season. Despite hitting a career worst .236 batting average, he was still very productive player from both ends. Kinsler finished as a Gold Glove finalist at second base in the American League, so age is not slowing him down defensively. He also hit 22 home runs in the second largest ballpark in the MLB. He still has plenty of pop left in his bat.
Some teams have interest in Kinsler, but not as a second baseman. Kinsler is open minded to make a position change to third base if he were to get dealt to a winning ballclub.
Kinsler has a partial no-trade clause in his contract, so depending on which team, he would have to approve the trade. But there is plenty of buzz around Kinsler. There are still several clubs that could use a durable veteran infielder.
Here are five potential players in the Kinsler sweepstakes.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have been one of the more common trade partners with the Tigers over the past few years. Just in the past calendar year, the Tigers sent center fielder Cameron Maybin to Los Angeles in exchange for pitch Victor Alcantara and sent outfielder Justin Upton over in exchange for pitching prospects Grayson Long and Elvin Rodriguez
The Angels have been rumored to have shown the most interest in Kinsler. The Angels’ second base spot has been a problem for the past few seasons. They acquired star second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Atlanta Braves before the 2017 trade deadline, but Phillips has opted for free agency. So the Angels, once again, have a hole at second base.
The current second baseman they have penciled in on their depth chart is Kaleb Cowart, who owns a career .197/.257/.318 slash line. Adding someone like Kinsler would be a huge upgrade at second base.
Kinsler hit .333/.412/.400 at Angel Stadium in 2017. So it’s safe to say he already feels at home in Anaheim.
The Angels farm system is currently ranked the worst in baseball by Bleacher Report. So sending Kinsler to Los Angeles may not yield as big of a return as it could if he was sent elsewhere.
If the Tigers were to send Kinsler to Los Angeles, they may be better off getting major league talent instead of prospects in return.
They could yield a back end starter to fill a rotation spot in 2018. Lefties Andrew Heaney, who was the 18th ranked prospect in MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects list in 2014, and Tyler Skaggs, who was ranked ninth on the same list in 2012, would likely be the top targets for the Tigers. Both Skaggs and Heaney have struggled in the majors, but a change of scenery could do them good.
Righties J.C. Ramirez and Alex Meyer would both be ready to man a rotation spot next season as well.
Toronto Blue Jays
Stability up the middle is something the Blue Jays have not had for some time now. Their second baseman, Devon Travis, has hit the disabled list three times in his first three seasons in the MLB. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has hit the disabled list seven times in his 13 year career, including three stints over the past two seasons.
The Jays’ corners haven’t necessarily been steady either. Third baseman Josh Donaldson missed over a month of the 2017 season with an injury.
Overall, the durability of their infielders is a huge problem. Ian Kinsler, on the other hand, has reached 600 plate appearances in eight of his last nine seasons. Acquiring a veteran infielder like Kinsler would give them a durable depth piece up the middle.
Kinsler hit 22 home runs in 2017 in a park that is not friendly to hitters. Moving him to Rogers Centre where the fences are closer to the plate could move his home run totals closer to 30.
Sending Kinsler to Toronto could net the Tigers an outfielder like Dalton Pompey. Pompey has the talent and athleticism to man the center field position on an everyday basis, but he will more than likely not get a shot in Toronto. Pompey is currently blocked in center field by Kevin Pillar, who has been a Gold Glove finalist in each of the past three seasons.
The Blue Jays No. 3 prospect, outfielder Anthony Alford, saw action in AAA last season, and hit .333/.385/.417 at that level. Alford may be ready to make the jump to the bigs in 2018, filling another outfield spot. So currently, the Blue Jays have plenty of outfield depth coming up in their organization. They may be willing to part with Pompey if it provides them with depth in the infield.
New York Mets
Currently, the Mets’ starting second baseman Gavin Cecchini has 83 career at bats in the MLB. In those 83 at bats, he hit .217/.270/.301. It’s safe to say that they could use some better offensive production out of the second base spot. Kinsler would be a big step up offensively.
Having a guy like Kinsler to fill the gap while Cecchini develops would help the Mets stay competitive in the NL East division. Adding a veteran like Kinsler with a good clubhouse presence could also be instrumental in the development of Cecchini and Amed Rosario.
Kinsler would prefer to go to a winning ball club at this point in his career. The Mets did lose 92 games in 2017, but that was mainly due to a mess of injuries that mainly affected their starting pitchers. With a healthier rotation, the Mets should have no problem being in the playoff race in 2018, especially if they have Kinsler penciled in at second base.
The Mets currently do not have a ton of organizational depth. Bleacher Report ranked the Mets farm system 20th in baseball. Most of their top prospects have been traded away for talent like outfielder Yoenis Cespedes or have already come up to MLB.
But the Mets do have some talent weighted at the top of their top 30 prospects list. Four of the Mets’ top six prospects are pitchers. Sending Kinsler to New York should land the Tigers one of them. The Tigers top four prospects are all pitchers, but for a rebuilding organization, you can never have too much pitching depth.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia hit the disabled list three times in 2017. Adding Kinsler would also provide depth at second base behind Pedroia if his 2018 season is as injury plagued as his 2017 season was.
This could also be a spot where Kinsler would be asked to play third base. With the Red Sox starting third baseman being Rafael Devers, who only has played in 58 games in his career, they may look to add someone who can play third incase Devers doesn’t produce in his sophomore season.
Currently, the Red Sox No. 2 prospect, third baseman Michael Chavis, is blocked by Devers at the hot corner. The Tigers may be able to acquire Chavis in exchange for Kinsler and a throw in player like catcher Jake Rogers.
The Tigers currently lack position player depth in their organization. Adding Chavis would add a power hitting corner infielder to their pipeline.
The Brewers would make the most sense to work out a Kinsler deal with. They just narrowly missed the postseason in 2017, so Kinsler would more likely accept a trade to a winning organization.
The Brewers organization seems to be perfect fit for a Kinsler deal. They simply have, in abundance, what the Tigers need most: outfielders.
Currently, the Brewers have more outfielders in their organization than they know what to do with. 90 of their 224 home runs in 2017 came from their outfielders alone, and that was with star outfielder Ryan Braun hitting the disabled list twice with a left calf strain. They are getting solid offensive production from their outfielders.
They have even more waiting to come up in their pipeline. Six of their top-14 prospects are outfielders. Their top prospect, outfielder Lewis Brinson, ranks 12th on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list and their number two prospect, outfielder Corey Ray, ranks 58th on the list.
With both prospects close to major league ready, they have are about to have more solid outfielders than spots to play them.
But with second baseman Neil Walker departing for free-agency, they have a hole at second base. Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard remain the top second base options on their roster. But Villar coming off of a season in which he hit .241/.293/.372. Sogard had great production last season, hitting .273/.393/.378, but primarily served as a platoon player. His numbers would most likely drop off quite a bit if he were to face left-handed pitchers on a regular basis.
For a team looking to make the playoffs in 2018 after just missing in 2017 by one game, a more solid option second base would be preferred.
Trading away some of their outfield talent could land the Brewers Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers willing to eat a portion of Kinsler’s salary, they may yield a player like centerfielder Brett Phillips in return.
Phillips is ranked 12th in the Brewers top 30 prospects list. They have three outfielders ranked higher than him on the list, as well has solid talent already on their 25-man roster. Phillips may not get a shot with the Brewers.
Don’t let his ranking on the prospect list fool you. Phillips hit .305/.377/.448 with 19 home runs and 78 RBIs in AAA this past season. He was called up to Milwaukee in September and hit .276/.351/.448 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 37 games.
He is an above average contributor at the plate and has plenty of speed and the glove to handle center field. The Brewers may look to trade him to improve their infield depth in 2018.