The Angels and Mets have both expressed interest in trading for Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported Monday. While the Angels’ interest is seemingly still in the exploratory stage, Morosi reports that the Mets and Tigers “have had preliminary discussions” about a potential Kinsler deal.
The Tigers have been aggressively dumping salary for several months now, as they dealt J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, Justin Upton, and Justin Verlander during the 2017 season. Along with Miguel Cabrera, Jordan Zimmermann, and Victor Martinez, Kinsler is now one of four Tigers veterans signed to expensive long-term deals, and he’s pretty obviously the most movable of those four players.
Kinsler, who’s heading into the final season of a five-year, $75 million contract, will make $11 million in 2018. While many teams may consider that to be too high a price to pay for a player who showed obvious signs of decline in 2017, he’s got a long history of success and would provide some stability to a club like the Angels or Mets that doesn’t have many known quantities in the infield right now.
Kinsler, who is considered by some to be a borderline future Hall of Famer, is a four-time All-Star and won his first Gold Glove in 2016. He’s got plenty of experience in big games, having played in 37 postseason games over four seasons while also playing a major role for Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic. While he’s coming off a career-worst 90 OPS+, Kinsler has hit at least 20 homers in five of his 12 big-league seasons (including the past two) and is still likely to provide more power than most of the other second basemen around the majors. He’s still a very good defender, as he finished second among big-league second basemen with six defensive runs saved in 2017, and there’s little risk considering that he’s a free agent after next season.
The Mets have yet to find a replacement for Neil Walker, who they dealt to the Brewers this past August, though utility infielders Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera could be candidates to take over at that position if New York doesn’t acquire a more established veteran. But as they look to contend while Yoenis Cespedes is in his prime and they’ve got a rotation stocked with talented, affordable starting pitchers, it’d make sense for them to add some proven infield depth this offseason, and Kinsler could be a strong fit.
The Angels, who released Danny Espinosa at midseason and then traded for Brandon Phillips with just a month remaining on his contract, have a major hole at second base. While Luis Valbuena could be a candidate to play there in 2018, he’s currently slated to start at either first or third base next season and wouldn’t be freed up to play second on a regular basis unless the Angels added a corner infielder. With the Angels seemingly intent on contending in 2018 after signing Justin Upton to a long-term extension, Kinsler would be a solid addition to Los Angeles’ lineup and would complete one of baseball’s top defensive middle infield tandems alongside Andrelton Simmons.
Morosi writes that some teams would want Kinsler to play third base if they acquired him, though with the Angels and Mets’ gaping holes at second, Kinsler would presumably be able to stick at his natural position if he was traded to either Los Angeles or New York.