DETROIT -- The Tigers have been entertaining trade talks with teams for Ian Kinsler on and off since last fall. In that time, they've traded Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, all for prospects.With the Tigers' rebuilding project now well underway and Kinsler entering the
DETROIT -- The Tigers have been entertaining trade talks with teams for Ian Kinsler on and off since last fall. In that time, they've traded Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, all for prospects.
With the Tigers' rebuilding project now well underway and Kinsler entering the final year of his contract, it now appears it's his turn to go. What a deal could do for Detroit's rebuild depends on where he goes.
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MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported Monday that the Tigers have had talks with multiple teams regarding Kinsler, including the Angels and Mets. At least two other teams have shown interest in Kinsler as a third baseman, according to Morosi. The Angels were among the teams that had interest in Kinsler last summer; they ended up trading for Brandon Phillips in August after Kinsler was blocked on trade waivers. Earlier in August, the Mets traded away their veteran second baseman when they sent Neil Walker to the Brewers.
Phillips and Walker are both free agents this winter, and neither team has an heir apparent at second. And while Detroit officials hesitate to say Kinsler is sure to be traded this winter -- Avila has suggested his leadership would be useful on a young Tigers club in 2018 if he stays -- the motivation to trade him is higher than ever. His 10-team no-trade list remains, but with the Tigers' direction clear and only one year left on his contract, there's less motivation to stay and less of an impediment for teams to pursue.
The Tigers' targets are no different than they were during their trading spree over the summer. They need hitting and position prospects, even after adding slugging infielders Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes from the Cubs' system and Dawel Lugo from the D-backs' system in July. Though 14 of Detroit's Top 30 Prospects in MLBPipeline.com's rankings are position players, there's still a shortage of impact bats in the group.
How much a Kinsler trade could address that is questionable, depending on the teams involved. While the Angels have a fit for Kinsler and a recent history of trades with the Tigers, their farm system remains relatively thin, an issue that dates back to the Justin Upton trade in August and Cameron Maybin trade last offseason. Three of their top five prospects per MLBPipeline.com are picks from the 2017 Draft. There's positional talent beyond that, but it comes with questions. In their previous two deals, the Tigers got pitching prospects in return for Maybin and Upton.
New York's farm system resembles the Tigers in that it's top-heavy on pitching. Gavin Cecchini, the Mets' eighth-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline.com, filled in some at second base down the stretch after the Walker trade, but the former first-round Draft pick but did not show an impact bat in limited time, which would explain why Kinsler would appeal to them. Peter Alonso (seventh-ranked) showed power in the Florida State League, but he is a first baseman. Other position prospects have been slowed by injuries the last few years.
The Mets just added a middle-infield prospect to their 40-man roster as protection against the Rule 5 Draft. Luis Guillorme (No. 11) earned Eastern League All-Star honors at Double-A Binghamton. His defensive skills are highly-rated, maybe Major League ready. He doesn't boast a power bat, but he knows the strike zone well enough to draw 72 walks against 55 strikeouts in 128 games.
The Brewers, who expressed interest in Kinsler last summer before trading for Walker, have a deeper farm system from which to deal if they want to make another bid. Six of Milwaukee's top 14-ranked prospects are outfielders, a particular area of need for the Tigers.
Debates like these are among the reasons the Tigers expanded their pro scouting department last month. By having more scouts and allowing each one to focus on fewer teams, those scouts can dig deeper into each organization's farm system and try to find undervalued talent.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.