Detroit Tigers trading 2B Ian Kinsler more a matter of when, not if

Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press
Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) makes a throw over to first to put out White Sox designated hitter Tyler Saladino (20) during the first inning of the Tigers' 7-1 loss on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Chicago.

ORLANDO — The Detroit Tigers are optimistic they will trade Ian Kinsler.

It could happen in the next few days at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, it could happen later this offseason or even during the regular season.

But based on both logic and the consistent words from general manager Al Avila this off-season, it will happen.

“I think it will,” he said.

Kinsler has been the Tigers’ top talking point this offseason and the talks that began after last month’s General Managers Meetings continued on Monday at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Avila said, saying he thinks the team will get a trade done at some point.

“You don’t have to,” quipped manager Ron Gardenhire, who certainly would love to have a player like Kinsler next season.

Kinsler’s marketplace remains as advertised: The Angels are a team interested in the veteran second baseman, according to multiple persons with knowledge of the situation, and the Mets have spoken with the Tigers about him, too, according to Marc Carig of Newsday.

Other teams thought to be looking for a second baseman include the Brewers and Blue Jays.

Kinsler, 35, is one of the Tigers’ few remaining veteran players. Despite a downturn in offensive production last season, he still counts as one of the better second baseman in baseball. He is also affordable, under contract for $11 million next season.

Asked if trading Kinsler was the focal point of the team’s winter meetings, Avila said, “Well, I’d say it’s the one that makes the most sense. There’s been some minor situations that come up, but nothing that I can say is going to happen or that we’re really excited to do.”

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Asked if trading Kinsler could be considered a priority, Avila said, “In our situation right now, it behooves us to do it. It behooves us to move him, a veteran player, for a prospect, and give (Dixon) Machado the chance to play more often. So that would be a move in line with what we’re trying to do.”

Kinsler has a limited no-trade clause to 10 teams. He has not spoken with Avila since the conclusion of the regular season but considering the Tigers are in the beginning stages of a rebuilding process and Kinsler's age, that no-trade clause doesn’t seem to be a big hurdle.

Kinsler is the most veteran player in a crop of second baseman thought to be available, which includes Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis, Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison, Philadelphia’s Cesar Hernandez, Miami’s Starlin Castro and free agent Neil Walker. One could argue Kinsler is the best of that bunch.

But 2018 will be Kinsler's 13th major league season. He was banged up enough last season to concern rival executives and his offensive numbers are not trending in the right direction. That, along with the stagnancy of the trade market, could force the Tigers into taking a slightly lesser package than they would desire.

Asked for a general price, Avila said, “Basically, a young prospect.”

Overall, a dozen scouts and executives polled by the Free Press say the Tigers could reasonably expect a middle-level prospect and perhaps a younger, high-upside prospect. Avila’s description of that price could indicate is holding out for an upper-level prospect, which is fair given the many ways Kinsler can positively affect a contending team next season.

Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Download our Tigers Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!