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Tigers expect to deal Kinsler, listening on Fulmer

Avila: 'It behooves us to move' veteran infielder, but club not trying to trade righty
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers were not close to completing an Ian Kinsler trade on Monday, the first day of baseball's Winter Meetings. In saying that, however, general manager Al Avila expects a deal will eventually get done, whether it's at the Winter Meetings or later this offseason.

Simply put, the logic for the rebuilding Tigers suggests it has to get done.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers were not close to completing an Ian Kinsler trade on Monday, the first day of baseball's Winter Meetings. In saying that, however, general manager Al Avila expects a deal will eventually get done, whether it's at the Winter Meetings or later this offseason.

Simply put, the logic for the rebuilding Tigers suggests it has to get done.

"In our situation right now, it behooves us to move him, a veteran player, for a prospect," Avila said, "[and] give [Dixon] Machado an opportunity to play more often. That would be a move in line with what we're trying to do."

The market for Kinsler has not changed since the Tigers arrived, though Avila said they fielded a few calls Sunday night and Monday morning. The same teams have remained involved, but Avila said nothing right now is moving toward a deal.

The Angels have been interested in Kinsler to some extent since last summer, and they have an opening at second base now that Brandon Phillips is a free agent. The Brewers were reportedly interested last summer and have a potential opening at second with Neil Walker now a free agent.

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The Mets have had extensive talks with Detroit about Kinsler, according to Marc Carig of Newsday. However, a deal appears unlikely, as the Mets' farm system does not match up well with what the Tigers are seeking in return.

Further complicating the situation is a potential infusion of second basemen on the trade market, with Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison and Cleveland's Jason Kipnis reportedly also available.

Video: MLB Tonight: Avila details Tigers' rebuild process

It would not be a shock if the Tigers left Disney World with Kinsler still on their club. Detroit cleared a roster spot for Thursday's Rule 5 Draft by outrighting reliever Victor Alcantara to Triple-A Toledo on Monday, removing any immediate urgency. But with the 35-year-old Kinsler under contract for one more season at $11 million and the Tigers looking to rebuild, it's more a question of when a deal comes together.

While Kinsler is the priority topic for the Tigers in trade discussion, he is not the only name to come up. Avila said they've received interest from several clubs on Michael Fulmer, including what he called "mild inquiries" since the Winter Meetings began. Avila wouldn't call Fulmer untouchable, but indicated he's not inclined to move him with five years remaining before free agency and Fulmer coming back from surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his right elbow.

Other comments suggested Avila is leaving open the possibility to be overwhelmed by an offer of prospects.

"I don't have an offer on the table. Nobody has put forth players in front of my face and said, 'We'll do this,'" Avila said. "We do know there's some teams that have a more desirable farm system that they could make it happen if they were really aggressive. If they really want to be aggressive, there's a handful of teams out there that have the players to do it. But we have not even come close to those type of conversations.

"Everybody's just kind of kicking around to see what the real interest is, and our basic message that we're not trying nor do we have the desire at this stage to trade him. But that doesn't mean we wouldn't listen."

Video: Take a look at Michael Fulmer's highlights from 2017

The Tigers have not had trade talks on third baseman turned right fielder Nicholas Castellanos. Avila said Detroit explored the possibility of a long-term contract extension with Castellanos' agent, David Meter, but haven't talked since and don't expect to revisit the idea.

Avila compared it to efforts they made toward a long-term extension with J.D. Martinez when he was two years away from free agency, the same point where Castellanos stands now. Detroit ended up signing Martinez for two years to avoid arbitration but not push back free agency. Whether the Tigers try that with Castellanos is a topic that might be revisited next month.

"Based on [the fact] that there have been no conversations since the end of the year, the interest is not really there at this point," Avila said.

In other Tigers news

• Avila said Detroit checked with Major League Baseball and its chief investigator before signing a Minor League contract with veteran catcher Derek Norris, who was suspended last September for violating MLB's domestic violence policy.

"They described what the situation was," Avila said. "There was a mistake done, they investigated it, and by their account they gave the mildest [of the serious suspensions]. And they encouraged us to do the signing, because they said this guy made a mistake, he was punished for it, and now he should be back at work. And knowing some history about him, the family going way back, we felt he was a solid guy where it was an isolated thing."

• Avila said he had a couple of conversations with agent Nez Balelo regarding Shohei Ohtani, but quickly determined the Tigers were unlikely to sign him.

"We scouted him, like all clubs. We liked him," Avila said. "We would've liked to have him, but we didn't feel we were really in the running for Ohtani in a rebuilding situation. At this point, we just were not a fit from his perspective."

• Detroit had interest in a few of the prospects the Braves lost as a result of Major League Baseball's investigation of Atlanta's activities in the international market, but Avila said they felt "extremely limited" by their little remaining spending pool for this signing period.

"The reviews were mixed from our scouts," Avila said. "We did like some of the guys, but at this stage we just couldn't make it work."

• Avila said the Tigers could sign one more free-agent starting pitcher to a one-year deal, likely a bounceback candidate similar to recent signing Mike Fiers. That likely won't happen at the Winter Meetings, since the Tigers need to keep a 40-man roster spot open for the Rule 5 Draft, but it could happen. Detroit is believed to have had some interest with left-hander Derek Holland, who went 7-14 with a 6.20 ERA for the White Sox last year before being released in September.

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

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer, Ian Kinsler