4:40pm: It may not even be that realistic for the Tigers to match up with the Dodgers, given that Kinsler can decline a trade to them and would demand an extension to do so.
Los Angeles is obviously looking in other places for a second baseman, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that they have made contact with the Twins on Brian Dozier — who’d also be a quality, right-handed bat who comes with two years of control.
2:52pm: The Tigers and Dodgers have held some degree of trade talks regarding Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler, reports MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (Twitter links). The connection is an obvious on-paper fit, considering Detroit’s stated desire to pare down payroll and get younger as well as the Dodgers’ lack of a clear starter at the position. While the Kinsler talks are of course worth noting, it should also be recognized that the Dodgers are casting a wide net as they explore options, and Kinsler has a partial no-trade clause which could potentially impact talks. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Kinsler is currently one of four players in whom the Dodgers have interest with regard to their vacancy at second base (Twitter link).
One prospect in whom the Tigers have interest is first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, according to Morosi, who notes that the Tigers are seeking left-handed power. The 21-year-old Bellinger moved from Class-A Advanced to Double-A in 2016 and, in addition to hitting quite well (.263/.359/.484 with 23 homers) slashed his strikeout rate by a considerable margin (27 percent in ’15, 19.7 percent in ’16). Bellinger moved up to Triple-A for the final three games of the season and ripped another three long balls to further add to his impressive year. MLB.com currently ranks him 31st on its list of Top 100 prospects, while Baseball America rated him 24th on their midseason Top 100. Both reports rave about his defense at first base, though MLB.com points out that he’s started games in center field in the minors and has the speed and athleticism to handle a corner spot in the Majors. BA feels there’s 30-homer potential in Bellinger’s bat.
From the Dodgers’ vantage point, Kinsler is among the most natural targets imaginable for their need at second base. The 34-year-old will play next season on a reasonable $11MM salary and comes with a $10MM option for the 2018 season ($5MM buyout). In addition to having multiple years of affordable control on his deal, he’s coming off yet another excellent year in which he batted .288/.348/.484 with 28 homers and 14 stolen bases. Kinsler rated 8.5 runs above average, per Ultimate Zone Rating, and drew an even more favorable mark from Defensive Runs Saved (+12). He also chipped in strong contributions on the basepaths and, perhaps most appealing of all to L.A., mashed opposing left-handers at a .309/.369/.525 clip in 2016. That line, and Kinsler’s career .306/.372/.507 line against southpaws, have to be tantalizing to a Dodgers club that hit just .213/.290/.332 against lefties as a collective unit in 2016 — dismal enough to easily translate to a league-worst 72 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers.
Certainly, though, Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman and his staff have alternatives if they deem Detroit’s asking price too high. Friedman & Co. need only look elsewhere in the American League Central to find another highly plausible trade candidate in the form of Brian Dozier, for instance. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips may well come at a lower cost if he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause for the chance to play on a contending team, and Philadelphia’s Cesar Hernandez has seen his name surface in trade rumors as well. As far as free agents go, a reunion with Chase Utley seems plausible as well.