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Kinsler reaches vesting option amid uncertainty

With Tigers in rebuilding mode, second baseman's future in Detroit not guaranteed
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- When the Tigers opened their season-ending road trip Tuesday at Kansas City, Ian Kinsler's second plate appearance -- a third-inning RBI single -- was worth more than the Tigers' lone run in a 2-1 loss. It marked Kinsler's 600th plate appearance of the season, which vested his contract option for next year at $11 million. It guaranteed his deal, but it'll do little to guarantee a future with Detroit.

Two days earlier, the Tigers' clubhouse at Comerica Park was a mix of packing and preparation before their final home game Sunday morning. Players were getting ready for a matinee against the Twins while sorting through lockers and finalizing plans to move stuff from Michigan back home. Amid the traffic sat Kinsler at his locker, talking with general manager Al Avila.

Full Game Coverage

DETROIT -- When the Tigers opened their season-ending road trip Tuesday at Kansas City, Ian Kinsler's second plate appearance -- a third-inning RBI single -- was worth more than the Tigers' lone run in a 2-1 loss. It marked Kinsler's 600th plate appearance of the season, which vested his contract option for next year at $11 million. It guaranteed his deal, but it'll do little to guarantee a future with Detroit.

Two days earlier, the Tigers' clubhouse at Comerica Park was a mix of packing and preparation before their final home game Sunday morning. Players were getting ready for a matinee against the Twins while sorting through lockers and finalizing plans to move stuff from Michigan back home. Amid the traffic sat Kinsler at his locker, talking with general manager Al Avila.

Full Game Coverage

"I think it's pretty self-explanatory what direction this team's going," Kinsler said Sunday. "If they want me a part of that or not is a decision they need to make. I'm going to treat the offseason the same way that I always have and prepare myself for next year as best I can. If they decide to trade me, then I make the adjustments that I need to make. If not, then I'm coming back to a place that's familiar.

"But it's up to Al, really, what he wishes. I don't know if he knows. I'm not sure."

Video: CWS@DET: Kinsler wins Heart and Hustle Award

Even if Kinsler's contract hadn't vested, the Tigers would've likely picked up the option rather than exercise a $5 million buyout clause. They're trying to reduce payroll and make the roster younger, but the 35-year-old Kinsler provides plenty for the money, even as he finishes a down year, by his standards.

Just as important to the rebuilding Tigers, Kinsler can provide plenty for another club. And as Detroit heads into the offseason having traded veterans J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander, Kinsler is ready for another offseason of rumors about where he's headed.

"Let's just finish out these six games and see what happens in the offseason," Kinsler said Sunday. "I'm sure there's going to be plenty of rumors and news about where I'm going. I don't know if the option vesting weighs into that at all."

The Tigers have listened to trade interest on Kinsler since last offseason, but they haven't come close to a deal. He was claimed on revocable waivers last month, but any deal was a long shot, and the claim might have been meant to block him from another club. The Brewers and Angels were both linked to Kinsler in rumors, but both moved on, acquiring Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips, respectively.

When Kinsler was on the market last offseason, his limited no-trade clause became a factor. His contract allows him to block a trade to 10 teams on a list he provides in advance. Kinsler can update that list each year, shortly after the World Series.

"I don't know how much of a factor it's going to be," Kinsler said. "As far as Al making a trade with another team being on my no-trade list or not on my no-trade list, I don't think it's going to factor into it for him. But it's nice to have for just protection. It's something I earned, so you try to take advantage of it."

Last offseason, Kinsler wanted a contract extension in exchange for accepting a deal, but that seems unlikely to be a factor if he has a chance to win with another team.

"I'd love the opportunity to win," Kinsler said. "It's not really guaranteed in this game, but it's nice to be in a clubhouse that's in a spot to compete at a high level."

That's not going to happen in Detroit next season; Avila has openly acknowledged the Tigers are poised to go through a tough 2018 campaign in order to get better down the road. But if Kinsler isn't traded, he'll be a veteran leader on a young club.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Ian Kinsler