A lot of names come and go in free agency season. Here’s the chain:
- Boredom leads to speculation.
- Speculation leads to rumor.
- Rumor leads to fact.
- Fact leads to imminent.
The other branch of that is the conversation. So many times you hear “Mets inquire about ______ ” And you fall out of your chair thinking that this off-season is going to be different because since the conversation is happening, the result isn’t too far behind. But doing due diligence isn’t news … or at least it shouldn’t be. The Mets having discussions about Ian Kinsler could have very well been John Ricco asking Al Avila if Kinsler knows a good chiropractor or something.
Kinsler is, at the very least, worth discussing on a deeper level, even if talks never become that deep. The Tigers are looking to shed some payroll and Kinsler is probably the guy they can get the most value back for (unless they decide to get weird and trade Miguel Cabrera.) Kinsler is set to make $11 million in 2018, the last season of his current contract. Second base is fast becoming the new third base, as it’s the new place to put the carousel after having some level of stability between Edgardo Alfonzo and Daniel Murphy. After Murphy, the plan went from Dilson Herrera to Neil Walker to Gavin Cecchini to, seemingly, Kinsler. With Wilmer Flores off to the side raising his hand every so often. After Kinsler would become a whole new plan to fill that hole until somebody who is currently three years old matures enough to become the next legitimate second base prospect.
Before last season, Kinsler was a .277 hitter who averaged 20 HR’s and 80 RBI per 162 games. Last year he took a severe downturn, batting .238 with a .725 OPS while hampered by a hamstring injury. Entering his age 36 season, this would be a sign of trouble. Keith Hernandez had hamstring trouble in his age 34 season and his career never rebounded. Kinsler, at a more demanding position, would be more active and therefore more in danger.
The argument for Kinsler is that he’s solid defensively, which is fine but if that’s all you’re getting, then you’re spending $11 million of your supposed $30 million to work with on an all glove no stick second baseman which when you think about it that way seems ridiculous. The other argument for him is that it was sort of an unlucky season for him. His hard hit contact rate went up and was a career high 37%, but it translated to his average on balls in play only being .244, which is among his career lows. The last time his “babip” was so low was in 2011, when his .243 babip translated into a .255 average while his hard contact rate was only 28%. But that season was also the season where he hit a career high 32 home runs and his OPS was .832 (and he was 11th in the MVP voting in his age 29 season).
So is there bounce back potential? Sure. But I can’t get over the fact that he’s coming off an injury plagued down year and entering his age 36 season. He isn’t 29 anymore, and that worries the hell out of me. But he’s going to cost less in a trade than a Brian Dozier or a Dee Gordon would, and that’s the definition of creative around these parts. But don’t make any mistake about this: When a third of your available funds are going to a 36-year-old with a balky hamstring who could turn out to be just a glove, that’s a huge risk. Granted, the Mets need that glove to improve their terrible defense up the middle. But there’s no margin for error with their Madoff inspired spreadsheet so the deeper analytics had better tell a more accurate story than the standard numbers, the MRI results, and the birth certificate.
Also, if Kinsler does come here, and it means that there’s no room for Flores, how embarrassing would it be to have a one year rental cost the Mets the next potential Justin Turner? All things the Mets should think about for a while.