Ian Kinsler’s five-year, $75MM contract has been widely reported to have a $10MM club option with a hefty $5MM buyout attached to it, but there’s a slight detail that Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently brought to light (via Twitter). Kinsler’s 2018 option actually has a vesting clause that will automatically trigger that option if and when Kinsler reaches 600 plate appearances this season.
MLBTR has learned that the option would also vest at $11MM — a slight uptick from the $10MM base salary he’d have if he falls shy of 600 plate appearances. Winning his second straight Gold Glove Award can also boost Kinsler’s 2018 base salary by $1MM. That’s of particular note given that Kinsler currently leads qualified Major League second basemen both in Defensive Runs Saved (+8) and UZR/150 (+9.3).
It’s a minor distinction, to be sure. Kinsler’s bat has taken a step back this season(.235/.314/.382), but his superlative glovework and quality baserunning have made him worth about two wins above replacement per both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Whether the bottom-line price tag is $10MM, $11MM or $12MM, it seems exceedingly likely that Kinsler’s option will either vest or be exercised by the Tigers. The $5MM buyout Kinsler is owed, after all, essentially reduces the Tigers’ decision on him to a one-year deal worth $5-7MM — an even easier call to make.
Having already traded Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Justin Wilson, J.D. Martinez, Cameron Maybin and Alex Avila in the past calendar year, the Tigers are all but certain to shop Kinsler around this offseason. While the potential for an additional million or two being tacked onto his salary may have a modest impact on trade talks, it’s hardly going to be a sticking point in negotiations with interested parties.
Kinsler currently has 522 plate appearances on the season, leaving him 78 plate appearances shy of that $11MM sum automatically kicking in for the 2018 campaign.