With a record of 67-37, the Yankees have been the second-best team in all of baseball. And yet those same Yankees are likely to have to survive a one-game wild-card playoff, because for as good as they’ve been, the Red Sox are six games better in the standings. They’re on pace to win either 112 or 113 games, depending on how you round your decimals, and yet even that good of a team can still have the occasional weakness. For example! Dustin Pedroia has been unable to get all the way healthy. Second base, then, has mostly belonged to Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt, and together they have been bad. The Red Sox have gotten a below-replacement performance from the keystone, so it’s an area they thought about improving.
You may consider the position improved. The Sox have moved to pick up a rental.
Red Sox get:
There is some money changing hands, but it doesn’t do much to change the equation. The Red Sox are almost certain to exceed the highest competitive-balance-tax threshold of $237 million, which comes with financial and draft-related penalties, but they don’t seem to mind, provided the team can get better. Kinsler makes the team better, even if only a little bit. The Red Sox were already so strong.
Given that Kinsler is 36 years old, he’s past the best offensive days of his career. He’s been hotter lately, shaking off an early slump, and even the overall reduced version of Kinsler now seems like more of a threat than Nunez. More importantly, whether you go by Defensive Runs Saved or Ultimate Zone Rating, Kinsler ranks as the second-best defensive second baseman. He has a long track record of being an outstanding defender, and you certainly couldn’t say that for Nunez. Kinsler is also better in that regard than Holt, so even if the bat is diminished, Kinsler is going to take hits away. Value is value, however it comes.
This has the additional effect of freeing up Nunez and/or Holt to play more third base, with Rafael Devers on the disabled list. Devers, you’d think, would be all the way back well in advance of the playoffs, but there are still games to win today. There are still the Yankees to try to fend off. This gets more complicated if Pedroia starts to feel markedly better, but I don’t think anyone’s counting on that.
For the Angels, it hurts to say goodbye, because Kinsler was a part of what they thought would be a good thing. But it’s long been evident this season wasn’t going to work out, so at least the front office isn’t coming away empty-handed. Both Buttrey and Jerez are relievers — Buttrey 25, and Jerez 26. Buttrey seems like the better of the two, but they’ve both been pitching in Triple-A, with fair amounts of success. There have been 276 Triple-A pitchers with at least 40 innings. Buttrey ranks fifth in strikeout rate, while Jerez checks in at 20th. Buttrey, also, ranks fifth in K-BB%. He pitches off of a huge fastball, and this season his strikeouts have surged while his walks have gone down.
It’s funny — the Red Sox have talked about needing bullpen help, and Buttrey might’ve been able to be that guy. But now he’ll join the Angels instead, and it shouldn’t be long before both these guys get major-league looks. Neither is a lock to really do anything, but as the Angels look ahead to a hopefully more competitive 2019, these could be a couple of bullpen solutions. Kinsler’s contract is up in some months.
This is how rental trades usually work. The Angels just decided to go for high-minors relievers instead of low-minors starters. And so now we’ll see if the Red Sox fill the bullpen slot Buttrey didn’t get a chance to take. Heaven knows there are plenty of relievers available.
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.