LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels plugged the biggest remaining hole on their roster Wednesday, acquiring veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor League prospects.
Kinsler, 35, was the most established second baseman available on the trade market, though he is coming off a down year, batting .236 with a .725 OPS, 22 home runs and 52 RBIs in 139 games with Detroit in 2017. A four-time All-Star and an American League Gold Glove Award winner in 2016, he has hit .273 with a .789 OPS and averaged 23 home runs over 12 seasons in the Majors.
The Angels will take on the entirety of Kinsler's $11 million salary in 2018, the final year of his contract. The price for him was outfielder Troy Montgomery and right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, who were ranked as the Halos' Nos. 20 and 24 prospects, respectively, by MLBPipeline.com.
The Angels were interested in acquiring Kinsler last summer, though they ultimately swung a trade with the Braves for veteran Brandon Phillips, who is now a free agent. General manager Billy Eppler said he has watched Kinsler play for a "long, long, long time," and he believes Kinsler can still perform to his standard levels despite his downtick in production in 2017.
"The people that we task with evaluating those things, both on-field evaluations and a little more metric-based evaluations, gave us some optimism that he's better than that line," Eppler said. "I think he knows that. We believe in him as a player."
The Angels were among the 10 teams on Kinsler's no-trade list, but he approved the trade after speaking with Eppler over the phone. In Anaheim, he will reunite with ex-Tigers teammate Justin Upton, who signed a five-year, $106 million deal to return to the Halos earlier this offseason, as well as his former manager Brad Ausmus, who joined the Angels' front office last month as a special assistant to the GM.
Eppler consulted Upton and Ausmus before making the trade, with both of them giving a "thumbs up" for Kinsler.
"He's a pretty complete baseball player," Eppler said. "Hits for average, has selectivity, can impact the baseball, plays outstanding defense, runs the bases well, phenomenal in the clubhouse, great teammate, from everything I've heard about him."
Kinsler will also partner with shortstop Andrelton Simmons to give the Angels one of the elite double-play combinations in the Majors. The club's up-the-middle defense now features three Gold Glove winners in Kinsler, Simmons and catcher Martin Maldonado, as well as Michael Trout in center field.
"I like defense," Eppler said. "I like scoring runs and preventing runs. I'm excited to watch these guys play."
The Angels have struggled to get production out of their second basemen in the past couple of years, as their .592 OPS at the position ranked last in the Majors this past season. Last offseason, the Halos made a similar trade with the Nationals for Danny Espinosa, who provided above-average defense but underwhelmed at the plate, leading to his release in July.
Though Kinsler represents another short-term solution, he did not cost the Angels any top prospects. Montgomery, 23, was an eighth-round Draft pick in 2016, and he batted .271 with a .771 OPS and reached Double-A Mobile in 2017. Hernandez, 18, recorded a 2.64 ERA over 44 1/3 innings across two Rookie levels last season.
"Detroit got two really good players in this deal, but we felt that we were positioning the club to be a strong club next year," Eppler said. "This was the opportunity that presented itself, so we took it."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Kinsler was a productive mixed-league option in 2017 despite a .236 average brought down in part by batted-ball misfortune (.244 BABIP), posting 22 homers, 14 steals and 90 runs scored. The four-time All-Star should go in the mid-rounds of mixed-league drafts this spring on the expectation that he will provide a solid batting mark with a triple-digit runs total as a table-setter for sluggers Trout and Upton.