Ian Kinsler Is a Big Upgrade for a Minor Price

Now armed with Shohei Ohtani, things have changed for the Angels. It was clear coming into the offseason that the team could use some help at second base. But with Ohtani in the fold, there’s been some extra urgency, as it’s become much easier to see the Angels making a charge for the playoffs. Earlier on Wednesday, according to our projections and depth charts, the Angels’ second-base situation was tied for the worst in the game. To address that, they’ve traded with the team that was ranked in eighth. The move:

Angels get:

Tigers get:

Hernandez is 18; he’s a lottery ticket. Montgomery is 23; he’s also a lottery ticket. Neither is a premium prospect, by any stretch of the word. The Tigers were never going to extract a high price for a guy in his mid-30s entering his walk year. Kinsler did just see his WAR drop by more than three wins. That, though, probably overstates the reality of what happened. And Kinsler seems like a solid upgrade for a team attempting to get a firm grip on one of the wild cards.

Over the past three seasons, Kinsler has seen his wOBA go from .335 to .356 to .313. When you see something like that for a 35-year-old, you get worried that maybe the wheels are coming off. And yet, by expected wOBA, Kinsler has gone from .314 to .328 to .326. There’s no difference at all between 2016 and 2017, and he looks the same by his contact rate. Kinsler didn’t lose his bat-to-ball skills. He didn’t lose any exit velocity. Kinsler, surely, isn’t at his peak, but it doesn’t seem like he’s coming off a major decline. He’s something like a league-average hitter. He does a little bit of everything across the board.

And then, in the field, over the past three seasons, Kinsler has rated as the best defensive second baseman by DRS. He ranks as the fourth-best defensive second baseman by UZR. He was strong again in 2017, and while I’ll concede that the defensive metrics can miss something with defensive alignments no longer so traditional, Kinsler would appear to be a plus in the field. He’ll even still steal the occasional base. Kinsler hasn’t been a sub-2 WAR player since debuting in 2006.

Kinsler isn’t going to last forever, and he’ll never be mistaken for a Jose Altuve, but for a modest cost, the Angels probably just got better by a couple of wins. And they should have the flexibility to do something at third base or in the bullpen, if they can’t address both. Only a month or two ago, the Angels seemed like they were trapped in between. Now they look like the fourth- or fifth-best team in the American League, with an expanding gap between the haves and the have-nots. Sure, it might not have worked without Ohtani. But Ohtani has landed. He’s on the Angels, and he’s made the picture all the more rosy. Thanks in part to Ohtani, a move like adding Kinsler could push the club into a playoff spot. Billy Eppler is rather enjoying this holiday season.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Noah Baron
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I’m actually really bummed the Mets weren’t able to acquire Kinsler. You have to think they could have put together a better package than that.

Noah Baron
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Also, goes without saying: really good move for Angels.

rasouddress
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rasouddress

Well, Kinsler did not approve a trade to the Mets. He exercised his No-Trade Clause on every team that wanted him except the Angels, probably because he saw the work that Billy Eppler is doing to put a winning product on the field.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

For those downvoting this–this is actually true. Kinsler had a 10-team no-trade list and only waived it for the Angels. The three other teams he was talking to also were on the no-trade list.

One possible reason why: He grew up in Arizona. If he still lives around there it could be as simple as wanting to be close to spring training.

talloptician
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talloptician

And Justin Upton had become one of his closest friends, by all reports.

Really though, anytime you can leave Detroit for California, you do it.