The Angels on Wednesday acquired veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers, filling a need with a proven player. Several teams engaged in discussions with Detroit, but only the Angels convinced Kinsler to waive his no-trade clause.
Kinsler has a long history of offensive success, though his 2017 season was the worst of his career. He hit .236 with a .313 on-base percentage and .412 slugging mark, each metric below his norms. Angels general manager Billy Eppler said he was convinced those would revert in 2018. Kinsler turns 36 in June, but major league talent evaluators say his defense has held up well as he has aged.
"He's a pretty complete baseball player," Eppler said. "He hits for average, has selectivity, can impact the baseball, plays outstanding defense, runs the bases well, phenomenal in the clubhouse."
In exchange, the Angels will send two prospects to Detroit: 18-year-old right-hander Wilkel Hernandez and 23-year-old outfielder Troy Montgomery. Neither ranked among the team’s top prospects. Hernandez was signed for $125,000 out of Venezuela and has not yet reached Class-A ball. Montgomery, an eighth-round pick in last year’s draft, performed well in the low minors and reached double A for 20 games in 2017.
The Angels made acquiring a second baseman a focus this offseason, exploring trades with a number of teams, including Philadelphia for 27-year-old Cesar Hernandez. But they preferred this path, considering the lower price they had to pay in return.
The Tigers had ample motivation to deal away Kinsler, with most of their veterans long gone and a long-awaited rebuild in motion. On Aug. 31, the Angels played a role in that rebuild by acquiring slugging left fielder Justin Upton from the Tigers. And, in November, the Angels re-signed Upton to a five-year, $106-million contract.
Over two years in Michigan, Kinsler and Upton built a favorable relationship, and Upton provided a thumbs-up recommendation for his teammate. So did Brad Ausmus, the former Tigers manager who now works as a special assistant to Eppler.
Kinsler’s contract contained a provision for him to block trades to 10 teams, and the Angels were on that list, but he waived that clause after a “very honest and open dialogue,” Eppler said.
Kinsler is due $11 million in 2018 in the final season of an extension he signed in 2012. The Angels are assuming that money, which nears them to their expected budget for next season’s payroll. They still need to acquire another infielder who can play third base against left-handed pitching, but second base was their biggest need.
“We felt that we were positioning the club to be a strong club next year, and this was the opportunity that presented itself,” Eppler said. “So, we took it.”
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura