As the offseason gets going, it's clear the Texas Rangers must figure out what's happening in the middle of the infield. They've got three guys that need every day time and only two spots. Something has to give.
Jurickson Profar likely has the most value because his salary remains low and his ceiling is high as he begins his big league career. The reasons other teams would covet him are the same reasons the Rangers would want to keep him. You're getting a player that projects to be a solid one at a good price. Elvis Andrus has a contract through 2018 -- or longer, if he decides not to opt out in 2018 or 2019. And to complicate matters a bit more, if Andrus is dealt, he would get full no-trade protection with his new club. So trading Andrus isn't easy, and he has about $66.5 million on the contract now through the 2018 season.
That makes Kinsler the most likely of the trio to get traded, if the Rangers make a move at all. Keep in mind he has a limited no-trade clause and can pick seven teams he can't be traded to. He has $62 million guaranteed coming his way for the next four years. He plays second base, a position that will be of significant interest this offseason thanks to Robinson Cano, perhaps the No. 1 free agent on the market. Cano wants more than $20 million (and maybe as much as $30 million) a season. Kinsler is making an average of $15.5 million each of the next four years. That's a savings to a team that either loses out on the Cano sweepstakes or doesn't want to pay that kind of money.
Kinsler is 31 years old. He hit .277 with 13 homers and 72 RBIs in 136 games last season. He had a .344 on-base percentage, much improved over his disappointing 2012 campaign. In fact, he had just as many RBIs in 2013 as he did in 2012, but hit 21 points better and played in 21 fewer games. His 5.0 WAR was the third-highest of his career.
The question is what the second-base market will look like as the offseason progresses. Cano is the big fish, but Brandon Phillips is also reportedly on the trade block. He's one year older than Kinsler, but makes $50 million over the next four years. He had 18 homers and 103 RBIs this past season, while hitting .261. His on-base percentage was .310, his lowest since joining the Reds in 2006.
But there are a handful of teams that will be looking for second baseman, and Kinsler would have some appeal. This is not, however, a simple money dump. The Rangers don't appear interested in paying half of Kinsler's salary. He has value and they want to see what that brings on the market. The Rangers' front office is always looking at a variety of options and is willing to listen to just about anything when it comes to trades (and why wouldn't they? You might as well see what folks are offering).
Texas, though, doesn't have trade anybody. They could ease the logjam by moving Kinsler, something they decided not to do last year after broaching the topic with him. But this is a new year, and if given plenty of time, Kinsler could learn the outfield or first base leading into and through spring training. That would free up Profar to play second and keep Andrus at short.
It makes sense for the club to see exactly what the return for Kinsler would be on the open market because if you trade him, you not only create a spot for Profar without shifting Kinsler to another position that isn't his natural one, but you free up $62 million that you can use to go after a big bat. But he's got enough value that simply dealing him, and paying a huge part of his salary doesn't make sense to me.
What do you think? Do you trade Kinsler?