The Detroit Tigers are in a full-swing rebuild, which began in the summer when the team shipped out Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez. One of the next obvious pieces on the move is second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is surrounded by trade rumors while the Winter Meetings take place in Orlando, Florida.
Kinsler is entering his walk year before he hits free agency after the 2018 season. The 35-year-old is owed $10 million next season, which is more than a fair price for the perennially underrated second baseman, but he is coming the worst year since his 2006 rookie season. Kinsler’s 2.4 fWAR was the second lowest total of his career and he posted a wRC+ under 100 for the first time (92).
Kinsler’s underlying numbers show a bounce-back could be in the cards, however. Kinsler walked more and struck out less last season than he did in 2016, when he hit .288/.348/.484 and was nearly a 6-win player. Kinsler’s hard-hit rate, contact rate and fly-ball rate were all near his career norms in 2017. The biggest issue was a .244 BABIP, which was significantly lower than his career .286 BABIP.
With strong defense and base running, Kinsler still has the foundation to be a well above-average player with some more luck in 2018. While he’s not the defender he was in his peak years, he’s still providing good defense and he stole 14 bags, reaching 10 stolen bases again for the 12th consecutive year.
The Los Angeles Angels and both the New York Yankees and Mets appear to be in need of a second baseman. The Angels have the worst second base production over the past three seasons, ranking last among teams with -0.9 fWAR and a 66 wRC+. With the recent addition of Shohei Ohtani, the Angels catapulted themselves into contention, meaning adding an option like Ian Kinsler would represent another significant boost.
The Mets have numerous infield options in Ahmed Rosario, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores and David Wright but all come with some question marks, either related to performance, age or injury, meaning Kinsler could easily fit in at second base. The Yankees just shipped off Starlin Castro in the Giancarlo Stanton trade and traded Chase Headley today. In-house options like Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and Thairo Estrada could fill those two holes but a proven option such as Kinsler could make sense.
Numerous other second base options are available on either the free agent or trade market, meaning there isn’t necessarily a huge demand for Kinsler’s services. Dee Gordon was the biggest second base man moved but Joe Panik, Starlin Castro, Cesar Hernandez and Neil Walker are other available options. A limited market along with Detroit’s desire to move Kinsler means a trade could happen as early as this week.