The 2017 Winter Meetings kicked off in Orlando, FL on Monday night. With the Detroit Tigers in a rebuild, they have been dangling their veteran players out on the trade block. Rumors have been swirling around trades involving starting pitcher Michael Fulmer and second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Tigers and GM Al Avila are making it clear that they are listening to offers on all players.
The Tigers kicked off the Winter Meetings by trading away Kinsler to the Los Angeles Angels where Kinsler will join former Tigers outfielder Justin Upton, who signed a five-year contract worth $106 million this offseason. He will also join his former manager, Brad Ausmus, who accepted the job of special assistant to Angels’ general manager Billy Eppler.
Kinsler played four seasons for the Tigers, in which he hit for a .275 average while hammering 78 home runs and driving in 300 runs since 2014. He is one of the better hitters at the second base position in all of baseball.
Kinsler was also an above average contributor with his glove, winning a Rawlings Gold Glove award in 2016. He was a finalist for the award in 2014 and 2017 as well. But, with a rebuild in full swing in Detroit, the Tigers’ second baseman hit the trade block this offseason.
He is a 35-year-old veteran with only one season remaining on his contract. Although he hit 22 home runs in 2017, he is coming off a season in which he posted a career low in batting average and his second worst on-base percentage. Kinsler’s age and decline over last season really hurt the return the Tigers would receive for him.
The move seems to be mainly a salary dump for the Tigers, as Los Angeles will take on all of Kinsler’s’ $11 million salary in 2018. With no player being off limits on the Tigers’ roster, this is most likely just the first of several veterans being shipped out for prospects this offseason.
The Tigers received a pair of prospects from the Angels in outfielder Troy Montgomery and right-handed pitcher Wilkel Hernandez, who were the Angels’ no. 20 and no. 24 ranked prospects, respectively, by MLB Pipeline.
Although the pair was not ranked very highly in a pipeline that was said to be the worst in baseball by Bleacher Report in September, the two have actually been putting up sufficient numbers in the minors.
Montgomery, 23, is an eighth-round pick out of Ohio State in 2016. He is climbing through the minors very quickly, playing in three different levels and reaching Class-AA in just his second season in professional baseball.
“He’s a high-energy guy. He’s got tools,” Avila said to MLB.com’s Jason Beck. “And he’s not too old, either.”
Montgomery’s plus speed and strong arm (three outfield assists in just 46 appearances in center field in 2017) equip him with the tools to handle center field long-term. He also only committed three errors in the outfield and turned in a .985 fielding percentage last season.
From the left side of the plate, Montgomery hit .271/.358/.413 in the minors last season. Although his batting average isn’t eye-popping, Montgomery draws quite a bit of walks, 48 in 373 at bats, allowing him to get on base and wreak havoc on the basepaths. He is a plus runner, stealing 15 bases over 100 games in the minors in 2017. He doesn’t have a whole lot of power, hitting just eight home runs last season, but his ability to get on base should allow him to be successful on offense. If Montgomery continues to develop, he could be up in the majors shortly.
Montgomery has the potential to be an everyday player. But at the least, with his ability to handle all three outfield spots, he could make a good depth piece on the Detroit bench for years to come.
Hernandez, only 18 years old, signed out of Venezuela in 2015. He made 12 appearances in the Arizona League and Pioneer League in 2017 where he pitched to a 2.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP while striking out 44 batters over 44.1 innings. One of the most intriguing stats is that he only allowed one home run over his 44.1 innings. His ability to keep the ball in the park makes him a very intriguing pitcher.
Hernandez features a fastball that touches 96 mph, but because of his young age, he could gain velocity as he develops more. His offspeed pitches need some work, though. Currently, he is working on developing a breaking ball and change up to compliment his fastball. However, Hernandez is still just a teenager and has plenty of time to develop his a offspeed pitches.
Hernandez has a quick arm and possess the ability to make bats miss. If he can cut down on his walks (22 in 44.1 innings) and hit the strike zone more often, he could be an effective pitcher sometime down the road.
“The pitcher’s very young, so there’s still upside there,” Avila said to Beck. “The guy has a good pitcher’s body. He throws in the mid-90s, he’s topped out at 96. Obviously with young pitchers, the younger the guys are, the farther away they are, but you like the upside. There’s definitely upside there. He’s definitely a prospect, a legit prospect.”
The addition of Kinsler puts the Angels another step closer to catching the Houston Astros in the American League Western Division race. Los Angeles now features one of the more powerful lineups in baseball, as they feature five players who hit 20 or more home runs in baseball, including outfielder Kole Calhoun, who was just short of the 20-home-run mark with 19.
But with Kinsler’s age and contract situation, he is most likely just a temporary option at second base in Los Angeles. However, he is an upgrade over their situation in 2016, which saw .260-hitting Johnny Giavotella split time with Gregorio Petit and Cliff Pennington.
The Angels are definitely the immediate winners of the trade, as they are acquiring an all-star second baseman without giving up any major league talent. Kinsler should help Los Angeles be competitive in the playoff race in 2018.
But, the long-term impact favors the Tigers’ organization. If the duo of prospects continue to develop at a fast rate in the Tigers’ pipeline, they could get a pair of solid ball players that could help speed up the rebuild in Detroit.
With the trade, infielder Dixon Machado is expect to fill the second base spot on the Tigers’ depth chart for the time being.