DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler came in at the tail end of the Tigers' dynasty atop the American League Central after he established himself in Texas. He never got to see a Tigers postseason victory, and he ended his tenure at the beginning of a long-term rebuild. But with an All-Star
DETROIT -- Ian Kinsler came in at the tail end of the Tigers' dynasty atop the American League Central after he established himself in Texas. He never got to see a Tigers postseason victory, and he ended his tenure at the beginning of a long-term rebuild. But with an All-Star selection, a Gold Glove and a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year honor, he made a major impact in four seasons on the Tigers.
And as his thank-you post on Instagram to Tigers fans, players and coaches reflects, Detroit made a major impact on him:
"To all my teammates and coaches, it's a special relationship spending a summer battling everyday together. To the fans and the city of Detroit, this might sound cliché, because every athlete seems to say the same thing, truly you have been a blessing to me and my family for the last 4 years. You will be missed."
Kinsler's post follows his trade to the Angels on Wednesday night. He joins Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Alex Avila and Justin Wilson as veteran Tigers traded over the past six months. Like the other deals, Kinsler's trade had been expected as the Tigers embark on a rebuilding project and youth movement.
Kinsler arrived in Detroit four years ago in an offseason trade for Prince Fielder. While the deal did not put the Tigers over the top in their push for a World Series title, it ended up being one of the better deals of Dave Dombrowski's tenure as president/general manager. Kinsler batted .275 with 78 home runs, 300 RBIs and a .764 OPS as a Tiger, but more importantly became the anchor of a revamped infield defense. Kinsler and Jose Iglesias became one of the more impressive double-play combinations in baseball.
According to FanGraphs, Kinsler's 17.4 Wins Above Replacement over his four seasons in Detroit easily led the Tigers in that stretch. That includes Jose Cabrera, who had a 14.0 WAR in that time. Kinsler also became the leader in a clubhouse that grew increasingly younger around him as the moves piled up. While Kinsler's future in Detroit became murky down the stretch last season, he served as a mentor for young callups like third baseman Jeimer Candelario.
Among those youngsters who learned from Kinsler was middle infielder Dixon Machado, who will move into a starting role at second base with Kinsler gone. Though the Tigers look at Machado as their shortstop of the future, Iglesias still has that spot and is expected to open next season there.
General manager Al Avila said at this week's Winter Meetings that they'll provide depth behind Machado with Minor League signings. Former Twins infielder Niko Goodrum inked such a deal last month. Former Indians farmhand Ronny Rodriguez posted Friday on Instagram that he has signed a Minor League contract with Detroit as well.
Machado could slide over to shortstop in 2019 once Iglesias hits free agency, but predicting who will take over at second requires some projection. Dawel Lugo, one of three prospects the Tigers received from Arizona in the J.D. Martinez trade in July, shifted from third to second down the stretch at Double-A Erie, but he has primarily been a third baseman and shortstop in his career. He has the potential for enough offensive punch to fill a Kinsler-type role if he can handle the defensive demands.
Filling Kinsler's leadership void could be more challenging, something Avila addressed at the Winter Meetings.
"[Jordan] Zimmermann is a leader. We think [Mikie] Mahtook has the makings of being a leader," Avila said. "I know [Nicholas] Castellanos at the end of the season, he actually said, 'I want to be the leader of this team.' And I think he has the ability to do it, too. So there are a lot of guys in that room that want to take charge."
As Kinsler heads west, he will still have some ties to Detroit. He remains a partner with Detroit-born musician Jack White in Warstic, which manufactures wooden and metal bats for various levels of play. Several Tigers players use the bats.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.