The 2014 Rangers have an interesting predicament. The same predicament they currently have, but it will be more pronounced, more necessary to solve in the off-season.
They have two shortstops and a second baseman. One shortstop, Elvis Andrus, is locked up for a long, long time. And the other shortstop, Jurickson Profar, is most likely going to move over to second base permanently, giving the Rangers what should be a very good and young middle infield, for many years.
I’m assuming the Rangers keep Profar at 2b, rather than move him to the outfield or trade him for another top prospect. It would mean Ian Kinsler either must change positions, or more logically, be traded to a team who will value him more highly since he can man second base for said team.
Kinsler has been on a decline the past few years, whether it’s due to injury or diminishing skills. Or perhaps a combination of both. For example: The league average wOBA in the American League this season is .318. Over the past two seasons, Kinsler’s wOBA’s have been .327 and .330, respectively. The .330 has been over the course of 97 games in 2013, so he has some room to improve upon that. But there is only so much he can do with only a month and a half of the season remaining.
Best option for 2014? Trade Ian Kinsler. There are certainly obstacles. He is going to turn 32 next season. He, as I mentioned, isn’t hitting like he used to hit, as just two years ago, he posted a 7-WAR season with a .364 wOBA. He is guaranteed four more seasons, and $62 million on his current contract (including the 2018 option which has a $5 million buyout). So most teams will be wary of committing that kind of money to a player who is past his prime, and probably past the point of “good” nowadays. Above-average, maybe. But I can’t see Kinsler being worth much more than 3 wins in a season moving forward, and he might be worth even less than that.
There is one team that could use a 2B next season though, and has a fairly new obsession with throwing around money: the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mark Ellis has a $1 million buyout on his 2014 option and is going to be turning 37 next summer. There is no doubt that Ian Kinsler will be an upgrade at 2B for the Dodgers over Ellis (And at $5 million, Ellis might even be worth a utility role). If the Dodgers don’t bring home a championship this season after spending an absurd amount of money in 2013 (and beyond), there will be even more pressure to win next year.
In comes the potential acceptance of either the remaining Ian Kinsler money or most of it, without having to give up much. Maybe a prospect with some upside. But they definitely won’t have to surrender a bonafide prospect of any kind.
The Rangers COULD decide to just move Kinsler to 1B or a corner outfield spot. But a .330-ish wOBA at first base would be below the league average at the position. And even though .330 would be a little above average in left or right field, he would be learning a new position. That might not go well. There is a not-miniscule chance Ian Kinsler is a below-average player in 2014 if he is moved off of 2B, especially if it is to the outfield.
The Rangers would probably be just as good bringing back David Murphy as one of the outfielders, rather than moving Ian Kinsler out there. Murphy is a solid defender, and even though he’s been terrible at the plate in 2013, he should be very cheap next year and regress back closer to his normal offensive numbers.
The other outfield spot could be solved with a platoon, potentially a minor leaguer, depending on who is ready (if anyone), a stop-gap, maybe even Nelson Cruz. Although, knowing that Cruz was just suspended, I would simply let him walk.
They can solve their outfield situation in a better manner than using Ian Kinsler to fill one of the two voids.
And they can find a 1B for a year that’ll hit like Kinsler probably will in 2014.
Overall, the best bet for the Rangers is to move on from Kinsler, assuming there is a team that wants or needs a 2B badly enough.