Since the start of the 2017 season, Tigers general manager Al Avila has traded five regulars, including popular players J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander. The much-needed rebuilding of a roster that was aging, expensive and ineffective is here in earnest.
Two who remain, however, reside in the middle infield: second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Jose Iglesias. What will become of them? Do they have a place in the rebuild?
Kinsler was asked about this on Friday following the trades of Upton and Verlander. He’s here for the next month, he said. If the Tigers want him to remain with the club and help it rebuild, he’s fine with it. If they don’t want him, he’s fine with that, too.
With so many popular players gone, and with his attitude and outspoken nature, Kinsler is one of the few remaining veterans on the club people would hate to see dealt.
The good news is that you likely will have a chance to say goodbye after this season, but the bad news is that’s not entirely a given.
Tigers general manager Al Avila has made a lot of decisions that haven’t earned him a lot of loyalty among the fanbase, but he’s shown he’ll be patient up until a point, and then decisive when he feels it’s time. Agree or disagree with the results, that’s the way he has operated.
So far, there’s a lot more reason to disagree. Every fifth day or so, his biggest mistake, Jordan Zimmermann, reminds everyone of the countless millions in salary being flushed to the sewers. Of course, every day the fans see a club that won division titles and made yearly playoff runs looking completely feeble.
Last week, Avila acknowledged as much in a letter sent to season ticket holders that essentially said to give him a little time to work things out. This is not a big-market team, and it can’t afford to go bounding past the luxury tax threshold on a yearly basis.
The predictable decline of a Tigers franchise that mortgaged its farm system and piled up debt on its credit card came to pass, and trying fruitlessly to make the good times last longer would only cause worse and more extended pain in the future.
Avila said the pieces are in place to fix that with expansions in scouting, coaching and analytics that should pay off with better “data-driven” decisions and more sustainable success in the long run. Those in hope of a fast fix won’t be happy, but baseball just doesn’t work like that.
And Avila certainly has had patience. Many words were spent over the past offseason chattering about the Tigers selling off whatever they could. But Avila refused to accept that it had to be done in a fire sale, and held out for the deals he was looking for. That took him until July for J.D. Martinez, and the end of August for Upton and Verlander.
That brings us back to Kinsler and Iglesias. The Tigers can elect to bring Kinsler back in 2018 for the low price of $10 million. Even though he’s stumbled much of this year, it’s a no-brainer to bring him back, hope he builds value in the first half of 2018, and then deal him for additional prospects.
Yet, if the right deal comes around, trading Kinsler this offseason might turn out to be best. Don’t expect Avila to hold onto him if he hears an offer he likes.
And then there’s Iglesias. Next season is his final one before he is eligible to declare for free agency. He’s being paid $4.1 million this year, and will undoubtedly make a little more next because that’s the way these things work.
Even hitting a disappointing .263/.297/.375 line, Iglesias has been an above-average defender worth more than two wins this year, per Baseball Reference.
Iglesias might be overshadowed by a strong crop of better shortstops, but there’s value to be had. And with Dixon Machado looming, Iglesias likely isn’t part of the team’s long-term plans, either.
It’s been a painful transition for the Tigers and their fans this year. It’s going to get a little more painful in the year to come.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.