By Matt Johnson
on Wednesday, December 13th
Less than a week after signing Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels made another significant move on Wednesday as they seek to revamp their lineup and get back into the playoffs next season. After days of speculation, the Detroit Tigers traded second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Angels. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal first reported the deal.
For Los Angeles, the arrival of Kinsler vastly upgrades the team's standing at second base. The 35-year-old drew extremely high grades for his defense at second base last season and his 22 home runs and 14 stolen bases will surpass the production they got at second base throughout last season. Kinsler is on the final of a five-year, $75 million deal he signed back in 2013 with the Texas Rangers and will make $11 million this season.
Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, after his agreement to waive his no-trade clause, Kinsler will slide in immediately and provide an upgrade for the Angels at second base. While Los Angeles' second basemen received high marks defensively with a 7.7 Defensive Ratings and 5.3 UZR/150 per FanGraphs, they rated 21st offensively in wRC+ (93) and 27th in wOBA (.307) on the year. Those numbers should be much higher this year with the arrival of Kinsler.
While he is up there and past the prime of his career, a regression last season could be connected to playing for a team that finished with the worst record in baseball. Kinsler's .236/.313/.412 slash line, .313 wOBA and 91 wRC+, could also be credited to some bad fortune. While it's natural to seem some decline in BABIP with age, given a player's speed and ability to beat out close plays drops, Kinsler's BABIP fell from .280-plus in his previous four seasons and .300-plus in 2014 and '15 to a .244 BABIP last season.
Furthermore, Kinsler's ability to hit the ball hard remained consistent with a 37 percent hard-hit ball rate last season compared to a 34 percent rate in 2016. When that is paired with a career-worst 14.4 percent infield fly ball rate, a near guaranteed out in baseball, it's easy to see where Kinsler ran into some poor luck last season.
Now he'll join a competitive Angels' squad and be around a lineup with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Ohtani and Kole Calhoun. The opportunities to see better pitches and have more opportunities to produce runs for a team in the thick of a playoff spot and the added competitive fire that comes from that, should all exist.
In a short amount of time, Los Angeles extended one of the game's best producers in the corner outfield, added a generational talent in Ohtani and now solved their woes at second base. The front office seems committed to the now and putting more pieces together to contend in the American League this season. With a deeper farm system and money to spend, Los Angeles could now look to upgrade at third base or add another starting pitcher.