With 'no leverage,' Tigers trade Ian Kinsler for prospects

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Ian Kinsler

Orlando, Fla. — Tigers general manager Al Avila didn’t try to sugarcoat it.

By the end of the night — and by the end of the night we’re talking nearly midnight on Wednesday — the Tigers had to settle for a package of two lower-level prospects from the Los Angeles Angels, in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

“We didn’t break the bank on it, that’s for sure,” Avila said. “But at least we got a couple of young guys who have a chance to develop. If you take it to the trade deadline at this point, unless you’ve got a player they can control for more years, it’s just not there.

“Not with a guy who has a no-trade provision and you have to go through the process again. The chances are more that we get a worse deal than better.”

In exchange for Kinsler, who is 35 and in the last year of his contract ($11 million), the Tigers got 18-year-old Venezuelan right-hander Wilkel Hernandez and 23-year-old outfielder Troy Montgomery.

Hernandez, who is a lanky 6-foot-2 with a mid-90s fastball, was ranked 24th in the Angels system. Montgomery, an 8th-round pick out of Ohio State, was ranked 20th and finished the season in Double-A.

More: Henning: Kinsler deal will help make Tigers well in long run 

“The pitcher is very young and there is still some upside there,” Avila said. “He’s got a good pitcher’s body and he throws 94-95 and topped out at 96. Now, the younger guys are farther away, but there is upside here. He’s definitely a legitimate prospect.

“Montgomery is a high-energy guy and he’s got tools.”

Truth is, though, it probably wasn’t the best package of prospects the Tigers were offered. Three other clubs besides the Angels made offers on Wednesday. The Mets and Brewers were believed to be two of them.

But Kinsler would only waive his no-trade clause for the Angels.

More: Meet new Detroit Tigers prospects Wilkel Hernandez, Troy Montgomery

"I had no leverage,” Avila said. “So now the question is, do you keep him and wait to the next trade deadline? But still has the leverage. Maybe another team opens up, but you are leaving a lot to chance.

“He’s already gone through one trade deadline (last July) and nothing was there for him. And now he’s another year older. So here we are. It’s time to move on.”

Dixon Machado will come to spring training as the Tigers second baseman. Avila said he planned to add a veteran middle infielder (on a minor-league deal) to compete with Machado.

The club will also have to sign a utility infielder. If Kinsler would have returned, Machado would have had that role.

Wilkel Hernandez

“It’s very frustrating,” Avila said of having no leverage in trade talks. “But at the same time, it is what it is. That’s what happens when you give guys no-trade provisions. A player can exercise it. It’s their right. Nothing wrong with it.”

Kinsler, who joins former teammate Justin Upton and former manager Brad Ausmus (special assistant to the general manager) in Los Angeles, didn’t barter for an extra year or any bonus money from either team to waive the no-trade provision.

“I think he felt comfortable going there,” Avila said.

In four seasons in Detroit, Kinsler hit .275 with .328 on-base and .436 slugging percentages. He produced 78 home runs, 300 RBIs and scored 401 runs. He also won his first Gold Glove award.

He will team with shortstop Andrelton Simmons to form what could be one of the best middle-infield combinations in the game.

“He’s a pretty complete baseball player,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler told the Orange County Register. “He hits for average, has selectivity, impacts the baseball. Outstanding defense. Runs the bases well. Phenomenal in the clubhouse. A great teammate from everything I’ve heard about him.”

More: Gardenhire wants rebuilding Tigers ‘to prepare to win’

The Tigers now have 38 players on their 40-man roster. One spot will be for their Rule 5 pick Thursday. The Tigers have the first pick in that draft.

“We also still want to add another starting pitcher,” Avila said. “But we could also pick a second guy in the Rule 5 draft. We’ll just have to see who’s there in our second time around.”

The Tigers have also talked to the agent of Japanese reliever Yoshihisa Hirano. Avila also said there was mutual interest between the Tigers and 41-year-old Fernando Rodney. He said he expects to meet with Rodney’s agent later in the offseason.