It’s an exciting time for the Texas Rangers, as they’re fresh off their second consecutive appearance in the World Series. With opening day just around the corner, they’ll prepare to defend their title against the retooled Los Angeles Angels. However, several key players for the Rangers will be free agents for the next few years, including Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams and Ian Kinsler. In order to remain competitive, the Rangers will need to be smart about who they re-sign, because it will be difficult to retain all of them.
That’s why it was intriguing that Ken Rosenthal reported that the Rangers were close to a 6 year extension with second baseman Ian Kinsler. Kinsler does have a team option for 2013, so there’s not as much urgency to sign him. However, as Rosenthal reports, the potential new deal would start in 2013, eliminating the option year.
So what is the hold up if both the team and the player are genuinely interested in an extension? Money, of course, as Rosenthal explains:
Kinsler and the Rangers, trying to complete a deal by the team’s opener on Friday, have been unable to reach agreement on the financial terms of the new contract.
The Rangers, sources say, are willing to give Kinsler a salary higher than Dan Uggla’s record average for a second baseman, $12.4 million. But the team probably does not want to go far above that figure, which is where Cano enters the equation.
The Yankees exercised Cano’s $14 million option for this season and hold a $15 million option on him for 2013. His next deal, whether achieved in an extension or through free agency, figures to be at a much higher number.
It’s an interesting comparison Rosenthal makes, but is Kinsler worthy of a deal similar to Robinson Cano? Over the past three years Cano has been the better hitter, hitting 32% above league average (132 wRC+) compared to Kinsler’s 119 wRC+. However, Kinsler’s been able to remain nearly as productive thanks to his stellar defence. Cano holds a slight edge at 16.4 WAR, but at 15.8 WAR for Kinsler the difference has been almost non-existent.
The key difference is health, and Kinsler has had issues staying on the field. Between 2009-2011 Kinsler played in 402 games, compared to Cano’s 480. Kinsler’s missed around 28 games a season, while Cano has played just about every day. Taking all of this into account, it’s reasonable to suggest that Kinsler should be paid slightly less than Cano. While their production has been similar, players like Cano generally get paid more for posting stronger batting averages, driving in more runs, hitting the long ball all while staying healthy. Unfortunately for Kinsler, he’s simply not as productive in the “sexy” stats as Cano for things like RBI or batting average, and despite providing similar production to Cano he’s unlikely to score a bigger salary. While we’ve acknowledged that RBI and batting average aren’t as crucial to a player’s success in terms of being a productive hitter, players are still rewarded for putting up sexy numbers in these categories. And since Kinsler’s value comes from things like defence and on base percentage as opposed to batting average and RBI, it’s hard for fans and teams alike to accept that Kinsler has been nearly as productive as Cano.
Regardless of how Kinsler provides his value, there’s little question that the Rangers need to extend him. He’s been their best player over the past several years, and that’s on a team that includes former MVP Josh Hamilton, a breakout hitter in Mike Napoli, the underrated Adrian Beltre, and the overrated “consummate professional” in Michael Young (for those of you unfamiliar with Young, he claims to be a team player while complaining any time a superior player forces him off the position he was previously playing).
While signing Kinsler will make the Rangers a better team, it doesn’t come without risk. He’ll be 36 when the contract expires, and given his propensity for nagging injuries his skills may deteriorate faster than other players. Additionally, second baseman deal with a lot of contact, so given his injury history he’s likely to miss some time. The Rangers currently have top prospect Jurickson Profar, one of the best middle infield prospects to come around in a very long time, stashed away in AA. He “only” posted an 883 OPS as an 18 year old in A ball, while being significantly younger than his peers. He’s going to need a spot sooner rather than later, and locking up Kinsler to play second base means it might be Elvis Andrus getting moved to accommodate Profar. While that would be the right move for the short term, it’s debateable if that will help in the long term.
Still, Kinsler is one of the best players on a loaded Rangers squad, and re-signing him is a top priority in order to fend off the Angels.