Kinsler, Rangers Discussing Extension

The Texas Rangers and second baseman Ian Kinsler have been discussing a possible six-year contract extension for the better part of two months, but Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the negotiations will be heating up prior to Opening Day on Friday.

Rosenthal states that the Rangers are willing to exceed the record $12.4M average annual value given to Dan Uggla in March 2011, but Kinsler and his agent may be holding out to determine what Robinson Cano receives, which will help set Kinsler’s overall market. Of course, Cano will likely not be a free agent until after the 2013 season, so there are no guarantees that the Yankees’ second baseman will set the market until that time. That could persuade Kinsler to simply ride out the remainder of his contract with the Rangers and attempt to secure the most lucrative deal possible in free agency.

Although Kinsler may ultimately have a chance to sign for more money if he waits until he reaches free agency, the 29-year-old second baseman would take a serious risk. He has been injury-prone throughout his big league career. He only averages 128.8 games per year, and last season was the first season he played in more than 144 games in a single season. Waiting another two years before signing an extension opens up the possibility for more injuries and more question marks, which would only cost him money in his next contract.

For that reason, I would argue that it makes the most financial sense for Kinsler to sign a contract extension prior to Opening Day. It is the same argument for younger players signing contract extensions in their arbitration years. Take a hit in terms of total possible dollars in return for financial security and removing the possibility of one injury shattering the dreams of a mega-contract.

Still, any reasonable contract extension for Ian Kinsler in the next couple of days would set a record for average annual value (AAV) for a second baseman. As stated earlier, that record currently belongs to the $12.4M AAV given to Dan Uggla last spring, and Kinsler was clearly a superior player through their age 29 season.

Kinsler .275 .355 .469 124 10.2 12.2 5.2 24.6
Uggla .257 .344 .482 121 10.6 22.6 -14.4 14.6

Uggla is known for his prestigious home run power because he has launched at least 30 home runs in each of the past five seasons. Kinsler, on the other hand, broke into the big leagues two years earlier and hit three more home runs through his age 29 season than did Uggla.

Quite simply, Kinsler hits for a higher average, gets on base more, strikes out less, and is a better defender than Uggla. It is positive news that the Texas Rangers are willing to pay Kinsler more than the Braves paid Uggla. He deserves it.

In fact, only 23 second basemen since the live ball era began in 1920 have produced more WAR between their age 24 and age 29 seasons than Ian Kinsler, and amongst those names, only Chase Utley (+33.0 WAR) is an active player. Just another reason why Kinsler should command a record AAV with any possible contract extension he and his agent discuss with the Texas Rangers over the next two days prior to the self-imposed Opening Day deadline.

Rosenthal says Kinsler and the Rangers are discussing a six-year extension. What number makes sense?

Over the past six years in the big leagues, Kinsler has been worth +24.6 wins, which correlates to $107M in value. That does not mean Kinsler and his agent, Jay Franklin, are necessarily seeking a contract north of $100M. After all, Kinsler will hypothetically be signing through his age 36 season, so some level of regression due to age should be expected in any potential contract extension.

It has been reported that the Rangers offered a six-year, $76.5M ($12.75 AAV) contract, and Kinsler turned it down. As of February, Kinsler and his agent have been pushing for a six-year, $90M ($15M AAV) contract extension. That would blow Uggla’s five-year, $62M contract out of the water.

Though the $90M price tag for a second baseman exceeds previous expectations, it may not be out of line for Ian Kinsler. If we assume that each win is worth $5M in today’s market, Kinsler would only have to be a +3 win player per season to play up to that contract. When we consider the fact that he has been worth at least three wins in each of the past four years, that is not such a lofty expectation. Perhaps that $90M request is not as lofty as it appears at first glance.

It should be noted, however, that Kinsler may not play second base throughout the remainder of his career. He has proven injury-prone, and the Texas Rangers have a potential superstar in Jurickson Profar, who could be knocking at the big league door for playing time within the next couple seasons. The outfield may be Kinsler’s home as soon as 2014, and while it would potentially reduce the number of overall injuries, it would also place more emphasis on his bat due to the negative one-win positional adjustment from second base to corner outfield. Not to mention the fact that we have no idea how to project his defense in a corner outfield spot, which could place even more pressure on his bat.

With the bat, Kinsler has only been worth more than +2.5 wins only twice in his career, 2008 and 2011. That should make any GM nervous about potentially locking up $90M in a player who could eventually land at a corner outfield position and negate much of the positional and defensive value he has accumulated throughout the first six years of his career in the big leagues.

If the Rangers would be committed to Kinsler at second base through the majority of his potential six-year contract extension, the $90M contract Kinsler and his agent seek does not seem too far off the mark. His past performance shows us that he should be, on average, a three-win second baseman for the foreseeable future, barring a dramatic dropoff due to injury.

If the Rangers eventually see Kinsler moving from second base to a corner outfield position, however, they should think twice about acquiescing to his $90M request. Moving to a corner outfield position limits his overall value as a player. The Rangers would be paying a corner outfielder as if he were producing as a second baseman, which does not make sense.

J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

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10 years ago

6-year contract would not have Kinsler signed through his age 37 season.