I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing this by now, but the Red Sox need a third baseman; a platoon of Deven Marrero and Brock Holt isn’t going to help schedule a duck boat parade. With Todd Frazier being acquired by the Evil Empire, the third base market is looking very thin, and Ken Rosenthal has suggested that the Red Sox may be forced to think “outside of the box” in their quest for putting a capable human being at the hot corner. Yes, promoting phenom Rafael Devers is certainly a possibility, but we’re going to operate under the assumption that Red Sox are finally going to give a prospect adequate time to develop and not throw him into the fire. So what exactly does thinking out of the box entail? Old friend Jed Lowrie is probably the most obvious fit, but that’s not really too far “outside of the box” given that he’s started there as recently as 2015. The name that Rosenthal mentioned that really has me intrigued is Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Dave Dombrowski clearly likes Kinsler. He traded for him prior to the 2014 season, and he should consider doing it again. He played 2 innings at third in 2012, but the other 13,709.2 innings he’s played in the field have come at second base. His defense at second is nothing short of spectacular. He is the reigning American League Gold Glove award winner, and is the current favorite to win it again. It’s certainly more ideal to convert from short stop to third, but regardless, he’s a world class defensive middle infielder and should be more than capable of handling third base. He is currently having the worst offensive season of his career, but has still managed to put up roughly league average numbers despite seemingly running into some poor luck. He’s striking out just 12.0% of the time, and is actually posting the highest hard-hit percentage of his career. Combined with an uncharacteristically low .257 BABIP, improvement seems to be coming. He’s been one of the most consistent bats in the game for over a decade and his peripherals look more than fine, so I wouldn’t be scared away by some bad luck.
Earlier this week, the Tigers traded J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks, indicating that they are content on being sellers and are giving up on the season. Even with this in mind, the market for Kinsler has yet to pick up. There aren’t really any teams in contention that need a second baseman, so Dombrowski wouldn’t be engaging in any type of a bidding war. The only other potential buyer would be the Milwaukee Brewers thanks to the struggles of Jonathan Villar. Sure, Kinsler has a relatively inexpensive $12million team option for next season that the Tigers could use for leverage, but there likely won’t be any other suitors forcing Dombrowski to part with a piece like Michael Chavis. That team option makes him even more appealing for Boston. If the experiment is a failure, the front office could simply buyout the final year for $5million and let the Devers era begin next season. If Kinsler proves to be capable defensively and hits like he has the previous 11 seasons, they can allow Devers more time to develop, move Kinsler in the offseason, or even choose to stick with Kinlser at third and play Devers at first base/DH next season. Honestly, the worst-case scenario is that Devers temporarily loses reps at third because Kinsler is playing too well to take out of the lineup, and that’s not exactly a bad problem. The team option gives the Red Sox front office flexibility when constructing the roster for the 2018 season, as well as clearly bolstering the team for a 2017 pennant push.
Trading for a 35-year-old career second baseman with intentions to move him to third base is certainly out of the box, but it honestly makes sense. Why trade for a guy like Martin Prado or Eduardo Nunez just for the sake of having a “third baseman”? If the Red Sox really want to add a veteran impact bat while hanging onto Devers, Groome, and Chavis, Ian Kinsler very well may be their best bet.