Fans of the New York Mets have certain extremist wings that can be totally unreasonable in their points of view. One side is so deeply immersed in prospect hugging and self-proclaimed expertise that it still asserts that the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes was a mistake. The other continues to push the idea that Wally Backman should have been the next manager.
So entrenched in their positions, the factions – or wingnuts if you prefer – rarely reach consensus on any subject. That changed with the reports that the Mets had engaged with the Detroit Tigers regarding a possible trade for veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler spurred one of the rare situations in which the borders of Met fan normalcy were overrun. Some were for it; some were against it; the groupings were oddly mixed. For a good player, this is unique. Then again, it’s the Mets – a club and an environment where conventional norms need not apply. Let’s look at the viable arguments for and against Kinsler as the next Met second baseman.
- He can still hit and has speed.
It might not look like it based on his 2017 slash of .236/.313/.412, but he did have 50 extra-base hits with 22 home runs. He stole 14 bases in 19 attempts. Without getting into the minutiae of his super-advanced numbers, they are consistent to what they have been for his entire career. He hit in bad luck with a .244 batting average on balls in play, and is one year out from one of the best seasons of his entire career.
The Tigers’ situation cannot be ignored. They cleaned house of most veterans on the way to losing 98 games. For a veteran player like Kinsler, it’s easy to lose motivation and look out for oneself in such a circumstance. Placed in an atmosphere where the team is trying to win and pointing toward one final contract could spark a solid, if not spectacular, season.
- His defense remains strong.
He won his first Gold Glove in 2016. While his advanced fielding numbers did decline from what they were, he did not fall off a cliff and become a liability. At worst, he’ll be an average defender. Considering that the Mets ignored defense to a self-destructive degree and that they are now, according to assistant GM John Ricco, emphasizing defense with Amed Rosario at shortstop and Juan Lagares getting every chance to win the job in center field, Kinsler is a major statistical step up from every player the Mets used at the position in 2017.
- He’s a comparatively cheap short-term option.
Kinsler’s $11 million contract for 2018 is a no-lose situation even if Kinsler replicates the numbers he produced in 2017. He will not require significant prospects to get since the Tigers are in a full-blown rebuild and the second-base market is currently flush.
Dee Gordon is owed $38 million through 2020 and the Miami Marlins are not giving him away.
Former Met Neil Walker is on the market and he was well-liked in his time in New York. He would require a longer commitment and will not come cheap.
The Cleveland Indians’ Jason Kipnis is known to new Met manager Mickey Callaway from their time together in Cleveland, but he’s owed $30.5 million through 2019. The same arguments that are used to defend Kinsler’s supposedly subpar 2017 are also reasonable for Kipnis. Granted, he missed chunks of time with a strained hamstring that obviously hindered him. He is also five years younger. The Mets’ long-term plans will come into play here — they likely prefer a shorter commitment and a cheaper salary.
Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins will be costly in prospects and the Twins are sending mixed signals on their intentions.
Starlin Castro might be on the market, but the Mets and Yankees did not have the greatest relationship before the midseason back and forth over negotiations for Jay Bruce. They’re not making any noteworthy trades now.
Kinsler will not cost a lot in prospects provided the Mets absorb his salary. If the Mets are planning on making a play for one of the big names at third base after next season by pursuing Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson, they won’t want long-term deals on the books when they do it. They could even bring Daniel Murphy back to play first or third since he never wanted to leave in the first place; a major reason they let him walk was his defense at second base.
The only players under contract for 2019 are Cespedes, Lagares and Wright. They can remake the roster after 2018 if they choose to; a long-term deal for a second baseman is a hindrance.
Kinsler fits that template better than the others.
- He’ll be 36.
Numbers aside, an aging player in the final year of his contract is exactly what the Mets have been trying to get away from as they seek to get younger and more athletic. Kinsler does not fit precisely into that category — he can still do many good things that mitigate his chronological age, but his age is his age. For all the arguments that it doesn’t matter, the days of players using a variety of performance-enhancing cocktails to defy their age, get beyond injuries, and be better at ages 35-40 than they were at 25-35 are over.
- He’s more of the same for the Mets as a stopgap and not a solution.
Despite the Mets’ renewed focus on defense, they have Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera and Asdrubal Cabrera, who can play the position if necessary. This is a matter of finding the best solutions to fill as many holes as possible. Does Kinsler qualify as fitting with the Mets’ change in philosophy? He does in part, but he’s a patch job. That can work if they make other big signings and/or trades.
Do the Mets look for a corner outfielder who can hit for power? Do they look for an established upgrade at first base since they have been ambivalent about Dominic Smith? Do they sign or trade for a third baseman and move Cabrera to second base?
There are many moving parts here, but barring a notable acquisition of a proven power bat for a corner infielder or outfielder, Kinsler is a repeat of the indifferent acquisitions of 2017, when the Mets really needed some excitement and something new.
- He’s in moderate demand, meaning they could overpay if they move early or wait too long.
General manager Sandy Alderson won’t get into a bidding war for Kinsler, particularly with the number of second basemen available on the market. Also, the Mets can live with what they have provided they upgrade elsewhere. Some of the teams interested in Kinsler might want him to play third base. It’s doubtful that heading into free agency, Kinsler will be enthusiastic about such a move, but he does not have a no-trade clause and is one year away from reaching 10-and-5 status to block any trade. He won’t have a choice.
The Tigers do not need to accept any crumbs the Mets or anyone else offer to take Kinsler off their hands, at least until Gordon, Walker, Kipnis, Castro, Dozier or any other suitable name is off the market. This is a staring contest that Alderson will have with Tiger GM Al Avila as he waits out the market… but he can’t wait until February. It’s a line he must walk and it’s a question as to whether Kinsler is worth it.
The pressure the Mets are under to sell tickets could force their hand to do something; when all other ideas run into a wall, mistakes happen.