Even though they are currently suffering through a 6-game slide, the Milwaukee Brewers remain atop the National League Central and active in trade talks with other clubs. David Stearns and co. have cast a wide net in their search for pitching help, but this morning it’s been reported that the club may be looking at an upgrade to their infield:
The Brewers are digging into the possibility of acquiring Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 22, 2017
Kinsler, who recently turned 35, has enjoyed a decorated 12-year career as a member of the Rangers and Tigers. He began his career as a 17th-round pick back in 2003 and has since been named to 4 All-Star teams, gotten MVP votes in 4 seasons, won a Gold Glove, and collected nearly 1800 hits and 221 home runs with a .275/.343/.448 slash line (111 wRC+).
The right-handed hitter hasn’t quite been as good at the plate this year as in year’s past, batting .244/.324/.397 with 9 home runs through his first 349 plate appearances this year. His strikeout and walk rates are both better than his career averages, though, and his 37.8% hard contact rate would be the highest he’s ever totaled. The culprit for his below-average 94 wRC+ appears to be a .257 BABIP, which is 31 points below his career average. Kinsler has long graded out as one of the top defensive second baseman in the game and this season has been no different; so far he’s totaled +9 Defensive Runs Saved and a +7.7 Ultimate Zone Rating.
The Brewers went into this season with Jonathan Villar slated to be their everyday second-sacker, but he hasn’t come close to matching the production of his breakout season from a year ago. The 26 year old switch-hitter has compiled only a meager .223/.287/.350 slash (63 wRC+) with 8 home runs and 18 steals this year. Defensive metrics are mixed on his work at the keystone, but overall he’s graded out as one of the least productive regular players in all of baseball this year.
The Brewers do have Eric Sogard slated to return from the disabled list today, who was excellent in 43 games before injuring his ankle and hitting the disabled list. The 31 year old batted .331/.438/.485 across 162 plate appearances (144 wRC+) after signing a minor league deal this past winter and getting called up to the big leageus in mid-May. But his previous 5-year MLB track record with the A’s (.609 OPS in 435 games) casts plenty of doubt upon Sogard’s ability to keep up that level of production upon his return.
Kinsler would be a pretty significant addition to Milwaukee’s lineup not only for the rest of this season, but potentially next year as well. He’s due the balance of an $11 mil salary this season and has an eminently reasonable $10 mil club option ($5 mil buyout) for 2018. Kinsler does have a limited no-trade clause in his contract, but it is not clear if the Brewers are one of the teams he can veto a deal to.
The Brewers have expressed interest in other Tiger assets Justin Wilson and Justin Verlander, as well.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus