Ian Kinsler’s Positional Value
After 2013, Kinsler is owed $67 million over the next five seasons, with an option year at the end for another $11 million, when he’s 36. Can Kinsler earn that contract playing in left-field or at first base? Everyone seems to assume that Kinsler will become league average at those positions. However, I found a few comparable hitters at those positions that gleam some hope that Kinsler could continue to provide surplus value at other positions.
IAN KINSLER career line of .273/.351/.813, 112 OPS+ with an average of 25 HR and 5.2 WAR per 162 games, with excellent defense.
ALEX GORDON career line of .274/.350/.792, 113 OPS+ with an average of 18 HR and 4.2 WAR per 162 games, with excellent defense.
FREDDIE FREEMAN career line of .275/.345/.798, 116 OPS+ with an average of 22 HR and 2.2 WAR per 162 games, with below average defense.
Gordon is a very interesting comparison as he broke into the bigs as an infielder, then reinvented himself as an outfielder for the Royals. Hopefully Kinsler can make a similar transition to the outfield. Kinsler definitely has the power to hold his own and still rack up a few wins. Judging from Freeman and Gordon, it looks like the only concern would be Kinsler’s defense playing up at those positions.
Personally I would imagine that Kinsler would fare better at first base, rather than left field- mainly because his skill set is already focused towards the infield. If Kinsler were to play above average defensively at his new position I would imagine it would be first base. I would almost expect him to play below average defensively in left. How many 30 year-old players are elite defensive outfielders? Very few, especially if it’s new to you.
Overall the uproar about positional value has been overblown. Kinsler could easily continue posting his 4-5 WAR seasons at his new position, and possibly even more depending on his development at his new position. Moving Kinsler to first-base makes a lot of sense, given the perpetual lack of production from that position for the Rangers. The last Ranger first-baseman to post a WAR over two was Mark Teixeira in 2006 (4.4). That’s a long line of replacement level players that could come to end very soon.