Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler just completed his second plate appearance of the night (an RBI single), meaning he’s now up to 600 on the season — the required threshold to trigger the 2018 vesting option in his contract.
As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported earlier this month, Kinsler’s previously known $10MM club option contains a vesting clause that would guarantee the option upon reaching 600 PAs. MLBTR further reported that Kinsler’s option will actually vest at $11MM, although the option won’t formally trigger until the season ends, as his contract stipulates that he cannot be on the disabled list at season’s end. Kinsler’s contract also contains an escalator that’ll boost his 2018 salary by $1MM if he wins a Gold Glove Award this season — a distinct possibility.
In some respects, it’s a fairly moot point. The Tigers always seemed exceptionally likely to exercise Kinsler’s option, especially when considering the fact that he’d be paid $5MM of that sum regardless due to the large nature of the option’s buyout. Kinsler hasn’t had his best year at the plate — the contrary, he’s actually had his worst — but he’s been on fire over the season’s final month and entered play hitting .236/.313/.416 with 22 homers on the season. In addition to the power, Kinsler has swiped 14 bases and provided value both with his baserunning and his characteristically strong glovework at second base.
While the exact amount that Kinsler will earn in 2018 will become clear once Awards voting has concluded, what won’t be clear for quite some time is exactly what uniform the four-time All-Star will be wearing on Opening Day next season. Kinsler recently told MLB.com’s Jon Morosi that he planned to talk directly to GM Al Avila before season’s end to discuss his future with the team. Winning, understandably, is becoming a greater priority for the 35-year-old, and the Tigers look to be embarking on an aggressive rebuild after trading Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila and Cameron Maybin all within the past year.
As such, Kinsler stands out as one of the more obvious — if not the most obvious — trade candidates of the upcoming offseason. While he may or may not return to the star-caliber levels f output he delivered as recently as 2016, Kinsler remains a decidedly above-average regular at a premium infield position that offers above-average pop for his position in addition to high-quality defense. That skill set, paired with a reasonable price tag in 2018 — be it $11MM or $12MM — should generate plenty of trade interest in the offseason. Kinsler does have a partial no-trade clause in his contract, though the second baseman indicated to Morosi that his willingness to waive that provision will be determined by what Avila tells him about the team’s planned offseason trajectory.