Rumor has it that Ian Kinsler is available on the trade market. The Texas Rangers have three good middle infield options, only two middle infield positions, and seem likely to trade away one of those three before the season begins – exactly who? We’ll find out when they make the trade. Ian Kinsler is the oldest and most expensive of the three, so Texas presumably has the most interest in trading him (but would get the least value in return).
If the Tigers do not wish to resign Omar Infante, either because his price tag is getting too high, because they don’t think he can sustain his recent production or both, there are very few decent options much less good ones. Hernan Perez might have an above average glove and steal some bases – but he might also put up a .500 OPS in the process. Devon Travis might be a contender for the 2016 Rookie of the Year award, but now? Robinson Cano will cost $300 million over a full decade.
You will hear that Kinsler is old and that Kinsler is in decline and that Kinsler is expensive. That’s sort of true, but he’s also “only 31″ (6 months younger than Infante, 4 months older than Cano), declining from being the second-best second baseman in baseball and under control for 4 years at an average salary of “only” $15 million. With “poor” production over the past 2 years, he was still worth 7 BBWAR – well worth $15 million per season. His defense has been a plus, he has stolen a fair number of bases and drawn a fair number of walks. I think I might prefer his contract to the ones that Cano and Infante are likely to sign this offseason.
It has already been proposed here at MCB that the Tigers attempt to swing a deal for Kinsler, and though I doubt that a Fielder for Kinsler contract swap could even be part of the conversation we have to wonder exactly what it would take to get Kinsler away from Texas. They don’t need him, they don’t want to pay him and many teams will be concerned about the downward trajectory in his power and speed numbers. I would imagine that Kinsler could be had for a relatively low price – but the Rangers will probably want players that can help push them over the top in 2014 and the Tigers are pretty low on trade chips at the moment. The Tigers could deal a starting pitcher, but I’d be very hesitant to part with even Rick Porcello in order to procure Kinsler (I’d rather pay Infante). The Tigers have only one prospect that any other team is going to actually want, and I’d be very hesitant to part with Nick Castellanos in order to procure Kinsler.
If you’re a “track record” guy, you’d probably think Kinsler would be worth a Castellanos or a Porcello. If a guy plays great D at second base, he doesn’t have to have 30 home run power (any more). If his HR/FB rate recovered (as opposed to “declined”) that would be gravy. There’s one BIG reason that I wouldn’t do it, though: Kinsler has bad career numbers outside of Texas and he has particularly bad career numbers in Comerica Park. That could be random noise, he might hit very well in Detroit as a Tiger, but it’s definitely a question mark. Infante is likely to require too many years in his decline phase for my liking and is going to decline from being a slightly above average player rather than a star. He’s also – over the span of his career – struggled in clutch situations. If Kinsler could be had at a bargain price – like the price the Tigers paid for Jhonny Peralta or Jose Veras – I’d be more than happy to make him the Tigers starting second baseman for the next 4 years, without any need to dump salary etc… to sweeten the deal. If not? It probably wouldn’t pay to gamble.