Sox by the Numbers: Kinsler an Upgrade at Second Base, Even If He Cools Off at the Plate

There were few holes to plug on the 2018 Red Sox roster heading into the trade deadline but GM Dave Dombrowski seems intent on plugging even the small ones. Boston’s acquisition of veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Angels late Monday night shores up the position that was Boston’s weakest link on the infield.

Kinsler is a pro. He stays on the field, provides more pop than Boston has had this year at his position and is a really good defender even at 36 years old (more on this in a minute).

He’s also in the midst of a late-career offensive surge. After a slow start to the season, Kinsler was one of the league’s best hitters in July and has hit .452 since the All-Star break with a 1.347 OPS. But that scorching hot production at the plate doesn’t need to continue for Kinsler to be a value-added proposition down the stretch.

Consider his year-long numbers compared to all other Red Sox second baseman, a unit which has mostly consisted of Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt:

The peripheral numbers are comparable but Kinsler clearly has better power even at this late stage in his career. And when it comes to defense, the Red Sox just got a big upgrade over anyone currently on their roster.

This year, Kinsler leads the American League in defensive runs saved (DRS), ultimate zone rating (UZR) and defensive runs above average (Def). The only better defensive second baseman in baseball this year has been Kolten Wong. He’s eight years younger than Kinsler.

To obtain the former Gold Glover the Red Sox gave up two pitchers, Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez. Both have had good seasons out of the bullpen in Triple-A Pawtucket but profile to be major league relievers, not starters. Like the Nathan Eovaldi trade, the Red Sox are giving up team-controlled youngsters for veterans who can help them win it all this year.

Yet it’s not the two guys Boston gave up that hover over this trade, it’s the lurking specter of somebody still on the team: the former MVP whose career has run parallel to Kinsler’s since they were teammates at Arizona State. Here are Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia’s comps since they both came into the league in 2006:

Dustin Pedroia has had perhaps the slightest offensive edge over Kinsler and both have perennially been near the top of the league in defense among fellow second basemen. Pedroia has more Gold Gloves and a higher defensive runs above average rating, though Kinsler leads everyone at the position in defensive runs saved since ’06. But, as referenced above, Kinsler has a higher career WAR mostly by appearing on the field more often.

It certainly seems unlikely Dombrowski would have made a move for Kinsler if he thought Pedroia would be in any position to contribute to the team this year. Even if Kinsler is really good in August and September, he’s still most likely a two-month rental. Kinsler will probably attract some interest as a free agent this offseason and Boston is unlikely to be willing to pay another veteran second baseman. Especially given how much time and money is left on the Pedroia contract, the Sox seem poised to ride with Pedey into the future and hope he gets healthy next year.

As for this year, as good as this team has been, they’d be even better with a productive Dustin Pedroia. They just essentially got the next best thing: his longtime doppleganger.