Tigers trade Kinsler to Angels for 2 prospects

Club receives OF Montgomery, RHP Hernandez in exchange for All-Star 2B

December 14th, 2017

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The yearlong, off-and-on trade saga of ended with one real option between familiar trade partners. The Tigers took it, sending their veteran second baseman to the Angels for two prospects on Wednesday night to continue their rebuilding project at the Winter Meetings.

In return, the Tigers received center fielder Troy Montgomery and right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, prospects ranked Nos. 20 and 24, respectively, in the Angels' system per MLBPipeline.com. The Angels, meanwhile, will cover the entirety of Kinsler's $11 million salary for next season.

In the end, it was the one trade general manager Al Avila could execute. Though the Tigers were talking with four interested teams on Kinsler as recently as Wednesday, including the Mets, all four were on Kinsler's 10-team limited no-trade clause, which he updated at season's end.

Avila, based off talks he had with Kinsler at season's end regarding the direction of the club, hoped Kinsler would accept a deal to a contender. Once the Tigers reached out to Kinsler and his agent on Wednesday afternoon, the only interested club to which Kinsler would accept a trade was the Angels. The presence of former Tiger , traded by Detroit at the end of August, played a large factor in making Kinsler feel comfortable going.

"He basically used his no-trade," Avila said, "and the club he agreed to go to was the Angels. ... I talked to three other clubs, and those three clubs he would not go to."

That left Avila with a choice: Trade Kinsler to the Angels, or hold onto him into next season in hopes that another team not on his list potentially would grow interested. After holding onto Kinsler through trade discussions last winter and again near the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Avila didn't see the value in waiting some more with Kinsler turning 36 in June.

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"We went through it at the Trade Deadline this past summer; that didn't work," Avila said. "And now here we are, and I think it's time to move on. The longer you wait in this scenario, I don't know that [the return] would've been any better."

The deal ends a lengthy stand on the trading block for Kinsler, whom the Tigers had tried to trade at various points since last offseason. The combination of a tepid trade market and Kinsler's no-trade clause kept Kinsler in Detroit last offseason, holding back the club's roster remodeling until this past summer.

The Angels had been interested in Kinsler last summer, but they acquired from the Braves in August once Kinsler was blocked on waivers. With the Tigers' rebuild well underway, and with one more season at $11 million, Avila moved to swing a trade.

"It was one team," Avila said. "I had no leverage."

The deal formally ended Kinsler's four-year tenure in Detroit, where he became a clubhouse leader, All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner. Kinsler's .288 average, 28 home runs, 83 RBIs and .831 OPS helped propel the Tigers into playoff contention in 2016. He fell back offensively this past season to a .236 average, 22 homers, 52 RBIs and a .725 OPS.

Kinsler's 17.4 fWAR over four seasons in Detroit ranks third among Major League second basemen in that span behind (23.9) and (18.8). Kinsler's 57 Defensive Runs Saved since 2014 are 27 more than the next highest second baseman.

The 23-year-old Montgomery, an eighth-round pick in the 2016 Draft out of Ohio State University, batted .271 with eight home runs, 38 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .771 OPS across three levels of the Angels' farm system in 2017, ending up at Double-A Mobile. The left-handed hitter can play all outfield positions, but he was behind younger outfielders on the club's prospect rankings.

"He's a high-energy guy. He's got tools," Avila said. "And he's not too old, either."

Hernandez was an amateur signing out of Venezuela three years ago who made his American debut at the Rookie level this past season. The lanky 18-year-old went 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 12 outings, seven of them starts, between two stops, allowing 25 hits over 44 1/3 innings with 22 walks and 44 strikeouts.

"The pitcher's very young, so there's still upside there," Avila said. "The guy has a good pitcher's body. He throws in the mid-90s, he's topped out at 96. Obviously with young pitchers, the younger the guys are, the farther away [from the Majors] they are, but you like the upside. There's definitely upside there. He's definitely a prospect, a legit prospect."

Kinsler did not receive concessions to waive his no-trade clause, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. He is the sixth Tigers veteran to be traded since July, joining J.D. Martinez, , Alex Avila, Upton and .

With the trade, is expected to move to second base for at least part of his playing time. Avila said earlier this week the Tigers will also look for a Minor League signing or other acquisition, somebody who can play second base as well as other infield positions.

Neither prospect needs to be protected, leaving the Tigers' 40-man roster at 38 heading into Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Detroit holds the top pick.