By: Will Burchfield
While it’s a safe bet that Ian Kinsler won’t be with the Tigers next season, it’s a guessing game as to where he’ll land.
One possibility? Los Angeles.
Per Anthony Fenech, the Angels have had “extensive discussions about acquiring Kinsler.”
The 35-year-old Kinsler doesn’t fit in the Tigers’ rebuild and the Angels have a need for a second baseman. They also have former Tiger Justin Upton, one of Kinsler’s closest friends. If the Angels are on Kinsler’s 10-team no-trade list, that would seem to be a factor in his decision.
It also helps that the Angels are coming off a season in which they nearly made the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine Kinsler accepting a trade to a team without a chance to win.
Al Avila is adamant that the Tigers get their payroll under the $197 million luxury tax threshold in 2018, having exceeded it each of the past two years. Trading Kinsler and his $11 million salary certainly wouldn’t hurt.
How much the Tigers can fetch in return is hard to say. Kinsler is coming off one of his worst offensive seasons and will be a free agent next winter. He hit .236 with a .725 OPS in 2017. His 1.6 offensive-WAR was a career low.
Still, he’s a strong base runner and a terrific second baseman. He won a Gold Glove in 2016 and was a finalist in 2017. His Ultimate Zone Rating this season was 6.1, first among AL second baseman.
Pairing Kinsler with Andrelton Simmons, widely considered the best defensive shortstop in baseball, would give the Angels a lethal double-play duo.
Kinsler, who admitted toward the end of last season that his focus drifted among the Tigers’ constant losing, would benefit from a change of environment.
“I know I have a lot of baseball left in me, a lot of baseball to give,” he said in September.
The Tigers and the Angels have been willing trade partners over the past year. They hooked up in the Cameron Maybin deal last November and came together again in late July in the Juston Upton deal.
The Angels signed Upton to a five-year extension earlier this month.