clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Ian Kinsler trade is a hallmark Eppler move. It’s also a good trade.

New, 148 comments

Kinsler would only waive his no-trade clause for Anaheim, so you know a certain someone had to swoop in. #OpportunisticAppler

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Angels have been seriously interested in Ian Kinsler for a long, long time, but yesterday Angels GM Billy Eppler and Tigers GM Al Avila were finally able to work out the kinks, hammering out a trade that sent Ian Kinsler to Anaheim.

Angels get: 2b Ian Kinsler

Tigers get: OF Troy Montgomery, RHP Wilkel Hernandez

I have been clamoring for this move for a long time, and not to congratulate myself or anything, but I’d like to leave this right here.

Let’s begin by discussing Kinsler based on his plate discipline and batted ball data.

Kinsler batted ball, 2015-17

Season O-Swing % O-Contact % Hard% Fly Ball% Line Drive %
Season O-Swing % O-Contact % Hard% Fly Ball% Line Drive %
2015 29.5% 76.0% 26.4% 40.7% 25.4%
2016 28.7% 71.5% 34.0% 44.5% 23.9%
2017 29.3% 73.2% 37.0% 46.5% 20.6%
Plate discipline information courtesy of Pitch Info Fangraphs

Much of Kinsler’s profile remains the same. You’ll notice line drive percentage decreased by three percentage points. An abnormally high popup rate (14.4% in 2017, 11.9% career) is one factor which tanked his BABIP, but most of the variation was done by factors outside of his control.

Take it from Jeff Sullivan himself:

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.

...Kinsler hasn’t been a sub-2 WAR player since debuting in 2006.

Kinsler’s exit velocity stayed constant over the last three years (85.6 mph, 86.9 mph, 86.1 mph). If we are talking about non-contact measures, it should be noted that Kinsler had his highest walk rate in six years while simultaneously lowering his strikeout rate by three percent—and that’s before even getting to the well-above average to elite defensive skills. Over the last three seasons, Kinsler is the best second base defender by Defensive Runs Saved with 37, and 4th-best second base defender by UZR with 20.9 runs.

As I wrote previously in my If I were Eppler post a month ago, Kinsler’s high floor is something to be duly noted, and his strong defense makes him an attractive target for a defense-oriented ballclub.

His defensive skills make for a nice floor even if the bat doesn’t bounce back, and he mashed off lefties to the tune of 33 percent above average both last season and over his career. That would make for a nice leadoff hitter a third of the time, which is an unexpected bonus. Given how high the asking price is for [Cesar] Hernandez, it makes sense to pursue an alternative that provides comparable production.

The Angels get a three-win player with bounce-back upside... Supply and demand works in the Angels’ favor here as the Tigers’ main focus is to shed payroll after years of paying the luxury tax. LAA absorbs most of the contract but pays less than it otherwise would in prospect currency.

It’s obvious that any player can outproduce the 66 wRC+ and -0.9 WAR cumulatively produced by Angels second baseman since Howie Kendrick was traded; the Angels were going to upgrade at second base. The question was, which one would they choose? That is where opportunity cost comes into play.

Since Neil Walker is asking for a four-year contract, Zack Cozart is not showing interest in moving to second base, and Philadelphia is asking multiple controllable starters for Cesar Hernandez, it makes sense not to unnecessarily sacrifice a Tyler Skaggs or Andrew Heaney or Jaime Barria or Nick Tropeano. The Angels need to retain their pitching and believe it or not, Kinsler (2.8 WAR) is projected to outperform Cesar Hernandez (2.1 WAR) next season by Fangraphs’ Steamer with upside for more.

And believe it or not, the longtime Rangers second baseman wanted to be here in Anaheim, of all possible trade destinations.

Look, this whole Kinsler thing could fall flat on its face. This could be a hilarious doom spiral. Kinsler is 36, and his production could fall off the proverbial cliff. He’s also right-handed, which doesn’t help in balancing lineup handedness. Also, he’s Ian Kinsler—by definition, that means over half the fan base is going to hate themselves for being convinced that this was ever a good idea.

But think about it, just think. The Angels are getting a fiery competitor who is never afraid to go all out to win, a player already very familiar with the AL West and hitting well at Angel Stadium, and would make for a strong defensive tandem up the middle. It comes at the cost of prospects whose likely collective outcome is one of an MLB reliever. With a need to win now, I’ll take the good second baseman, thank you very much.

And for now, that puts the Angels projected at 85-77. And that’s without Ohtani, a platoon partner at third base, other bench options, and various non-roster invitees. It’s important to remember: the Angels are not done just yet, and they did just fine here. The Angels already have their strongest roster since the 2014 season, and they’re not done yet.