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Analyzing the return for Ian Kinsler

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The Angels acquired minor-league relievers Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez. Learn more about them here.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels
So long, Kins.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This season has not been the best of seasons for the Angels. Mounting injuries along with sustained underperformance has led to middling results. Mired in standings stagnation despite a more optimistic run differential, the club opted to trade starting catcher Martin Maldonado to the Astros last week. Today, they did a similar thing with Ian Kinsler, a more-than-solid defensive second baseman also on an expiring contract, sending him off to the Boston Red Sox for the remainder of the season.

As first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the trade in its entirety:

LAA gets:

RHP Ty Buttrey

LHP Williams Jerez

BOS gets:

2b Ian Kinsler

$1.8 million in cash considerations


This trade is quite simple from Boston’s perspective. They sought a good second baseman for the stretch run, and they have found him. Kinsler has already recorded 2 wins above replacement by Fangraphs, and 2.5 WAR by Baseball-Reference, putting him on pace for 3+ WAR on the season.

He’s certainly an upgrade over Eduardo Nunez’s 76 wRC+ and usual second baseman Dustin Pedroia has missed all but three games on the year with a knee injury. The Red Sox rank 23rd in second-base production this season, and the Angels, who started Kinsler at second with regularity, rank 10th. Kinsler is a meaningful addition for a contending team.

While the Angels are out of the hunt this year, they still intend to do so, and soon. Often times, you’ll see a relief rental be traded for a low-level project starter—if you might recall, it happened with Joe Smith (who returned Jesus Castillo) and David Hernandez (who returned Luis Madero) with this team alone in recent years. This move was more of a soft sell, a reload, than a straight sell, as the return consists of near MLB-ready relievers who are close to contributing to the bullpen.

Performance from Kinsler return, 2018

Player K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP
Player K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP
Ty Buttrey 13.09 2.86 2.25 2.74 2.61
Williams Jerez 11.94 4.15 3.63 3.59 3.12

Let us begin with Buttrey, whose name is not to be mixed up with a certain liquid doused over movie concessions (let it be known that the pronunciation is BUT-tree, according to SoxProspects.com), who entering the season had a walk rate north of 4.5 per nine. That is no longer the case, as the six-foot six right-handed reliever has the 5th-highest strikeout rate and 5th-highest K-BB% among Triple-A relievers with at least 40 innings pitched (h/t Jeff Sullivan). In addition, Buttrey averages 96 mph with his heater, according to Billy Eppler.

The difference, according to Ian Cundall of SoxProspects (who last scouted both Buttrey and Jerez six weeks ago), is the difference between his fastball and changeup.

Buttrey’s success stems from his fastball-changeup combination, with his fastball showing plus-plus velocity and changeup also flashing plus potential. The fastball sat 95-97 mph in a recent outing, and though his walk rate has decreased, his command still needs refinement. His delivery doesn’t help in that regard, as it has considerable effort and lacks fluidity.

Buttrey’s changeup is a major league-quality out pitch with significant separation from has fastball at 84-86 mph. He throws the pitch with the same arm speed as his fastball and it comes in on the same plane before falling off the table sharp, late, vertical drop. He has strong feel for the pitch and has shown a willingness to use it against both left- and right-handed hitters. Buttrey will also show a hard, high-80s slider at times, but the pitch doesn’t have as much potential as his changeup.

Of the two hard-throwing relievers (Jerez averages 95 from the left side), Buttrey has more upside and could see late-inning roles pending the improvement of his fastball command. [Video: Baseball Census]

The left-hander Jerez has seen a velocity bump this year and now sits mid-90s. Pitching from a three-quarters delivery, Jerez’s average slider plays off the fastball well, and his arm action presents deception to opposing hitters. While arm-side command is important for him to grow into a larger role, a likely outcome (again, per Cundall) is Jerez becoming a situational reliever if he is unable to develop further. Unfortunately, no recent video is available of the lefty from which to evaluate, but a situational reliever isn’t bad at all for a converted catcher drafted in the second round seven years ago.

This is a fair win-win trade for both parties, and for Anaheim’s side of things, they have the option to maneuver David Fletcher wherever they would like to, giving Taylor Ward or Luis Rengifo more reps in the infield. Perhaps the Red Sox could have slightly haggled down the price, or gave the Angels riskier pieces that are unable to be used soon, but both teams came out ahead in their own ways. The Angels are banking on continuing to refine the duo, while the Red Sox are banking on winning now: a bargain for both teams, each with their own set of priorities.