“Ian’s a really good defensive player,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters late Monday. “Basically it’s what we hoped early this season that Dustin would be.”
Dombrowski, as president of the Detroit Tigers, had previously brought Kinsler to Detroit in 2014, a year in which the latter made his fourth all-star team and helped the Tigers hold off Kansas City for the AL Central title.
The 2018 Red Sox are in different circumstances: At 75-33 entering Tuesday (a 113-win pace), six games up in the AL East over the second-place New York Yankees, they are the best team in baseball and all but assured of a playoff spot.
But Tuesday’s 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline offered the Red Sox a chance to improve themselves on the margins and look ahead to October. And the uncertainty surrounding Pedroia was enough to prompt them to send a pair of minor league pitchers, Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez, to the Angels for three months of Kinsler, 36, who is hitting .239/.304/.406 with 13 homers this season. Though his numbers are below his career norms, Kinsler has an .860 OPS so far in July.
Pedroia, recovering from major knee surgery, has played in only three games this season and isn’t expected back until late in the regular season, if at all. Before the Kinsler deal, the Red Sox had been getting by with Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt splitting time at second base. But a recent hamstring injury to third baseman Rafael Devers has stretched thin their infield depth.
“Dustin’s in a situation where I’m just not sure if he’s coming back — or if he does it’s going to be late,” Dombrowski told reporters. “Ian’s a really good player, and he gives us a lot of the same things [as Pedroia]. Maybe a little different — a little more power, maybe not as much average . . . He’s a championship, winning-type player.”
For Dombrowski, known as one of the more aggressive dealmakers in the game, the Kinsler trade was his third this month, after having acquired outfielder/professional hitter Steve Pearce and right-handed starter Nathan Eovaldi. Kinsler is the third ex-Tiger he has acquired since coming to the Red Sox in 2015, joining lefty David Price and designated hitter J.D. Martinez.
Across baseball, action was heating up ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. Several other contenders pulled off trades late Monday and overnight Tuesday to bolster their rosters.
The Atlanta Braves, in a battle with Philadelphia for the NL East lead, sent three players to the Cincinnati Reds for slugging outfielder Adam Duvall. Duvall, 29, is having an off year but hit 30-plus homers in both 2016, when he was an all-star, and 2017, and he crushes left-handed pitching. At the very least, he can be a platoon outfielder or a pinch-hit option off the bench. He also has three more years of club control.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, whose recent 11-game winning streak catapulted them into the wild-card chase, landed right-handed reliever Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers for a pair of prospects. The Pirates, 3 1/2 games back of the second wild card entering Tuesday, get a hard-throwing option for their bullpen and a player who is under club control through 2021.