Detroit Tigers: What to do with Ian Kinsler for 2018

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 22: Ian Kinsler /

Once the offseason arrives, it should be very interesting to see what the Detroit Tigers decide to do with veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Over the course of this past season, the Detroit Tigers decided to go into full rebuilding mode and dealt J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander. One of the veteran players who remained with the club, however, was second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Although Kinsler was mentioned quite frequently in trade rumors and was also claimed off of waivers in August, he ultimately stayed in Detroit. Once the offseason arrives, though, many expect that his name will be featured in trade rumors once again.

After a tremendous 2016 campaign in which he hit .288/.348/.484 (122 OPS+) with 28 home runs, Kinsler’s numbers took a bit of a dip this past season. Through 139 games, he slashed .236/.313/.412 (90 OPS+) with 22 homers. Kinsler had a team option for 2018, but late this past season, his option automatically vested when he reached 600 plate appearances. Per Baseball-Reference, Kinsler will be under contract for $11 million through next season.

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Despite the down year, Kinsler was still worth a very respectable 2.4 fWAR in 2017. As a player who can still hit 20-plus home runs and play great defense at second base, one would think that there should be interest in Kinsler this coming offseason. It may also, however, be beneficial for the Tigers to keep Kinsler in Detroit for now.

As Evan Woodbery of MLive pointed out earlier this month, the Tigers options to replace Kinsler are quite limited. Woodbery mentions three possibilities: Dixon Machado, Dawel Lugo or an affordable free agent.

Though Machado performed well in a utility role in 2017, which included spending a considerable amount of time at second base, he has played mostly shortstop throughout the minor and major leagues. He could be a candidate to play shortstop next year if Jose Iglesias is traded, which is another possibility.

Lugo, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the J.D. Martinez deal, has yet to play above Double-A. Lugo had a rather strong showing in 2017, slashing a combined .277/.321/.424 with 13 homers and 65 RBI for the Erie SeaWolves and Jackson Generals, but may not be ready for the majors quite yet.

On the free agent market, it could be tough to attract players to a team that most expect is a ways away from contention. However, while it would be hard to imagine the Tigers spending on Brandon Phillips or Neil Walker, someone like Darwin Barney or Stephen Drew might make sense.

Set to enter his 13th MLB season, Kinsler is also one of the veterans and leaders on a young Tigers club. He has previously expressed a willingness to remain in Detroit and continue fulfilling a leadership role. In addition to his still-solid-performance on the field, Kinsler can also provide value as a mentor to younger players.

Next: Boston Red Sox: 2017 season review and offseason preview

Trading Kinsler could certainly make sense, especially if they can make a deal that will improve the club in the long run and give the veteran Kinsler a chance to play on a winning club and get back to the postseason. However, the Tigers shouldn’t necessarily be in too big of a rush to do it either. If the Tigers decide to keep Kinsler and find themselves out of contention by the All-Stark break, they could also look to deal him once again this summer.