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Dodgers trade rumors: Ian Kinsler makes a lot of sense

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Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There is no question the Dodgers have a need at second base this winter, and a name that keeps popping up is Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers, with the latest interest reported by Jon Morosi of MLB.com.

Kinsler would fit the Dodgers’ lineup in a number of ways. The right-hander hit .288/.348/.484 with 28 home runs and 29 doubles, including .309/.369/.525 against left-handed pitchers. He made 148 starts batting leadoff for the Tigers in 2016, and has mostly batted first and second in his three seasons in Detroit.

In the last three years, Kinsler hit .286/.332/.443, a 113 OPS+, including .297/.343/.468 against southpaws.

Kinsler won the American League Gold Glove Award at second base in 2016, and rates above average defensively at the position — +8.5 runs in Ultimate Zone Rating (+9.3 average the last three years); +12 in 2016, +17 three-year average in Defensive Runs Saved; and +4, +9.7 three-year average in Total Zone Rating.

Kinsler has been durable, averaging 156 games played the last three years and 153 games in the last six years.

He has averaged 5.1 fWAR and 5.9 rWAR the last three years, including 5.8 and 6.1, respectively in 2016.

“There are still some free agent and trade targets that we’re looking at second base,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said in a conference call on Friday, after Howie Kendrick was traded to the Phillies.

Morosi first floated the idea of Kinsler to the Dodgers last week.

He also mentioned the idea on Tuesday morning on MLB Network’s ‘Hot Stove’ program.

Tony Paul of the Detroit News made a guess of his own last week if the Tigers decide to sell some of their higher-price players, including Kinsler to the Dodgers, while also noting that no talks were reported.

Paul on Monday added this note, which suggests Kinsler is indeed on the market.

On Wednesday, Morosi rekindled the rumor flame, this time reporting actual talks between the two teams.

Then Morosi added this:

There is certainly a sticker shock with Cody Bellinger in the deal. After all, Bellinger is the Dodgers’ top prospect, and was ranked 24th in Baseball America in their midseason update, and No. 31 by MLB Pipeline.

Bellinger is the heir apparent at first base, where Adrian Gonzalez is under contract for two more seasons. Bellinger, just 21, will open 2016 at Triple-A and could be in the majors in 2017 thanks to his versatility, playing the outfield as well.

There is also the caveat that just because the Tigers are interested doesn’t mean the Dodgers are willing to part with Bellinger. But would it be that out of line?

Let’s take a look at some recent deals for second basemen, and the return.

Howie Kendrick

Kendrick hit .293/.347/.397, 116 OPS+, in 2014 with the Angels, a 5.3 rWAR season, averaging 3.9 rWAR the previous three seasons, entering his age-31 season.

The Dodgers sent pitcher Andrew Heaney to Anaheim in a 1-for-1 deal. Heaney, who finished 2014 in Triple-A, entered 2015 as the No. 25 prospect by MLB Pipeline, No. 37 by Baseball Prospectus, and 42nd by Baseball America.

Ben Zobrist

Zobrist is more than just a second baseman, playing several positions, and he was traded twice recently. The Rays sent him to the A’s in a 5-player trade, one that included pitcher Daniel Robertson, rated No. 65, 66 and 66 nationally heading into 2015.

Zobrist after 2014 was coming off a 116 OPS+ season, averaging 5.2 rWAR per year, heading into his age-34 season.

Midseason, the A’s send Zobrist to the Royals in a 2-for-1 trade, receiving pitchers Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks. Manaea, now in Oakland’s rotation, entered 2015 rated 56th, 81st and 85th. But this was midseason, and he entered 2016 ranked 45, 48 and 68. And that was just for a half-season of Zobrist.

Neil Walker

Walker was a fixture in Pittsburgh for years, and after 2015 was coming off a 106 OPS+, 2.4 rWAR season, averaging 3.3 rWAR for the previous three seasons. He was only 30 years old in 2016.

The Pirates traded Walker to the Mets for Jon Niese, not a prospect but an established starting pitcher, averaging 169 innings the previous three years, though just 1.0 rWAR per season.

This trade wasn’t perfectly analogous since prospects weren’t involved, and the two teams involved were coming off playoff seasons, and still hoping to contend in 2016.

But the overall point here is it is not out of the ordinary to see a top-50 prospect dealt for a second baseman, especially one of Kinsler’s quality. Even one who turns 35 in June.

Another point adding value to Kinsler is his contract, which pays him $11 million in 2017, plus a club-friendly $10 million team option for 2018 with a $5 million buyout. So unlike the examples above, you get two seasons out of Kinsler instead of just one.

The caveat

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed the Dodgers’ discussions with the Tigers regarding Kinsler — as well as LA’s interest in the Twins’ Brian Dozier as well — but there is a catch.

Kinsler has a partial no-trade clause and his agent, Jay Franklin, told Rosenthal what it would take to waive the clause:

“If one of the 10 teams happens to call and wants to talk about it, we’re open to talking about it,” Franklin said. “(But) they’re going to have to extend him for us to waive the no-trade.

The Dodgers are one of the 10 teams on Kinsler’s no-trade list.