Ian Kinsler is coming off of winning a World Series with the Boston Red Sox. He’s also near the end of a borderline Hall of Fame career. Is the 36-year-old worth a roster spot on the Chicago Cubs?
Position: Second Base
2018 Stats (two teams): 99 DRC+
Los Angeles Angels: .239/.304/.406, -0.9 BRR, 3.9 FRAA, 1.2 WARP
Boston Red Sox: .242/.294/.311, 0.6 BRR, -1.2 FRAA, -0.4 WARP
How He Fits: How Kinsler fits on the 2019 Cubs all depends on the role he takes upon joining the team. If he is a role player and a veteran bat off the bench, then he could help the team. At this point in Kinsler’s career, that’s the role he should be playing, and if he realizes that, it’s a role he could fill adequately with the Cubs.
Another factor in Kinsler’s potential fit with the Cubs is which of his 2018 seasons the Cubs would be getting. If he brings what he did with the Angels, the Cubs would be getting a quality player. A near two-WARP player off the bench is not something to scoff at—in fact, it’s something to be welcomed. The Cubs would be getting a veteran with a solid bat that still has some pop in it. They wouldn’t be getting the Ian Kinsler of 2011. But, they would be getting a player who takes his base, makes contact, doesn’t strike out much, and provides average defense at second base (and maybe below-average defense at other positions if the Cubs decided to move him around the diamond).
Why It Won’t Work: On the other hand, if the Cubs get the Kinsler who finished the 2018 season with the Red Sox, that’s not a player they really want or need. Kinsler wasn’t just bad with Boston, he wasn’t able to do any of the things that caused the Red Sox to trade for him. He was barely average on the basepaths, a sub-par hitter, and well below-average in the field. Even for a bench player, Kinsler provided below replacement level value down the stretch for the Red Sox.
There’s no reason for the Cubs to take on a bench bat who would add so little to the team. They already have bench bats with more potential, and guys who have proven to be better at pinch hitting than Kinsler. Knowing he’ll turn 37 during the 2019 season makes the idea of him playing for the Cubs make even less sense. There’s very little reason for the Cubs to use a roster spot on an aging former star like Kinsler when they have so many better options already in-house.
Alternatives: Those in-house options would David Bote and Ben Zobrist. I’d rather see them decide to just wait a while and bring up Nico Hoerner midway through the year rather than give a roster spot to Kinsler. There are some better outside possibilities the Cubs could go after. Assuming we have decided on Kinsler as a role-playing platoon player, at best, I’d much rather have Jordy Mercer, Adeiny Hechavarría, and maybe even Josh Harrison than Kinsler.
Lead photo courtesy Charles Krupa—Associated Press