By: Will Burchfield
Ian Kinsler is suddenly a misfit in the Tigers’ clubhouse.
The team is embracing a full-scale rebuild and the 35-year-old second baseman is a vestige of a bygone era.
“We’ve been extremely competitive, we’ve had really talented players since I’ve been here. And just recently over the last two months it’s changed dramatically,” Kinsler said on Friday morning. “I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.”
J.D. Martinez and Justin Wilson were traded in July. Justin Upton and Justin Verlander, two of Kinsler’s closest friends on the team, were shipped out of town on Thursday. Victor Martinez, back on the DL due to his heart issue, may not play again this season, if ever.
It leaves a player like Kinsler in a strange situation, stranded on a team that’s going nowhere in the near future.
“It can’t be easy for a veteran player to go through this, obviously not,” said general manager Al Avila. “But what they do is bring professionalism to the clubhouse every single day, they help nurture young players and they become part of the process of making the franchise great again.”
Is that a process the uber-competitive Kinsler wants to be a part of?
“I have no problem being part of a rebuilding team, if that’s what the Tigers wish. I don’t know what they wish. I don’t know if they want me a part of it,” said Kinser. “If they do want me a part of it, I’m fine with that.
“I have no problem trying to pass my experience along as best I can to the younger players and help anyway that I can. I don’t know what their plans are. That’s probably a better question for management than myself.”
Kinsler’s contract includes a $10 million club option for next season. The Tigers can pick it up or buy him out at the cost of $5 million. Kinsler said he hasn’t yet spoken with Avila about his future with the team but would welcome the opportunity to do so.
“You guys kind of have it backwards — it’s not really my choice. It’s his choice. If he wants to talk to me about it, I’m all ears. It would be great to have a discussion, but I’m a player,” said Kinsler. “My job isn’t really to decide whether I’m part of a rebuild or not.”
“I’m here for a month,” he added. “I don’t know what’s going to happen beyond this.”
In theory, the Tigers could pick up Kinsler’s option and then try to deal him this winter. But he has a limited no-trade clause and it’s been reported he won’t waive it without getting an extension from the team that acquires him. What’s more, Kinsler is in the midst of the worst season of his career and won’t have the same trade value that he’s had in the past.
“Right now, I’m obviously not having a great year and I think this last month I want to prove to myself that I can continue to play baseball at a high level. I know I can, but I would like to see something happen,” said Kinsler, who’s hitting .241 with a .718 OPS, both career lows.
Kinsler said he’d embrace the opportunity to be a mentor on a young team, but it’s fair to assume he’d rather spend the final years of his prime on a winning team. It seems most likely, at this point, that the Tigers buy him out in the offseason as they continue to usher in a new era.