DETROIT — There won’t be much talk about Ian Kinsler filling Prince Fielder’s shoes in Detroit.
Different players, different positions — and different expectations.
Still, Kinsler will be in the spotlight after he was traded to the Tigers from Texas in last week’s blockbuster that sent Fielder to the Rangers. Detroit parted ways with its slugging first baseman to bring in a well-rounded middle infielder and give the franchise more financial flexibility.
“It’s going to be a new journey for me, but as far as the organization that I got traded to, I’m extremely excited,” Kinsler said in a conference call Monday. “You can tell that they’re in a win-now mode.”
That’s for sure. Detroit has won three straight AL Central titles and an American League pennant in 2012. The Tigers could have brought back a similar roster and probably been favored for another division championship next year, but they shook things up by sending Fielder and his massive contract to the Rangers.
Fielder signed a $214 million, nine-year deal with Detroit before the 2012 season.
Kinsler, who makes plenty of money himself, won’t necessarily be asked to replace Fielder’s power, but the 31-year-old second baseman can provide a consistent bat and more speed than the Tigers have had in recent years.
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter hit 1-2 for Detroit last season in front of AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. Jackson struggled in the postseason and was eventually dropped in the order.
“Miguel — he’s had everything in the world said about him,” Kinsler said. “I don’t know what I could say that no one else has said. If I have the opportunity to hit in front of him, I’m going to try to take advantage.”
Kinsler’s .344 on-base percentage from last season was higher than both Jackson’s (.337) and Hunter’s (.334) — and his 15 steals would have led the Tigers easily.
Kinsler, a 30-30 player in 2009 and 2011, would love to get back to that level of production. He was caught stealing a career-high 11 times last season, although he said that was at least in part because of some botched hit-and-run plays.
Detroit seems almost certain to make additional moves this offseason, especially now that the Tigers have saved significant money long term with the trade. Kinsler just finished the first season of a $75 million, five-year contract.
Kinsler is already looking forward to playing alongside young shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose smooth fielding turned him into a bit of a favorite among Tigers fans after he came over in a midseason trade from Boston this year.
“I’ve heard a lot of things about his defensive ability,” Kinsler said. “I saw him in the playoffs this year on TV, and defensively, he’s outstanding.”
Kinsler batted .277 with 13 homers this year. The three-time All-Star was limited to 136 games because of injuries to his ribs and right side.
By trading him, the Rangers resolved a logjam in the middle of their infield. Jurickson Profar, a highly touted 20-year-old prospect, appeared to be blocked by Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Now Profar should have a chance to play regularly.
“There was definitely some expectation to be traded,” Kinsler said. “It’s very rare to have a player that stays with one team his whole career. ... I knew this was definitely something that was possible this offseason.”
NOTES: Detroit also announced that Darnell Coles will be the team’s assistant hitting coach.
Indians sign Murphy
CLEVELAND — Little Faith Murphy scooped everyone on her daddy signing with the Indians.
After free agent outfielder David Murphy agreed to terms on a contract last week with Cleveland, his 5-year-daughter, Faith, was at preschool in Texas where she was learning about Thanksgiving.
That’s when she broke the big news and startled some teachers.
“They were talking about Pilgrims and Indians,” Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti said. “And she said, ‘My daddy is going to be an Indian.’ That’s a first for us.”
Murphy, who spent the past seven seasons with the Rangers, finalized a $12 million, two-year contract Monday. He will receive salaries of $5.5 million next year and $6 million in 2015, and the Indians have a $7 million option for 2016 with a $500,000 buyout.
His daughter didn’t provide any more details on his contract, and Murphy said he’s looking forward to one day telling her about how she innocently announced he was Cleveland bound.
“It’s going to be a cute story someday,” Murphy said, “a funny story that we can tell her about when she’s older.”
Murphy has a career .275 average and can play all three outfield positions.
Seattle adds to staff
SEATTLE — Lloyd McClendon is bringing an entirely new coaching staff to Seattle. Among them: Two former Detroit Tigers coaches.
McClendon is bringing in Andy Van Slyke [first-base coach] and Mike Rojas [bullpen coach] from outside the organization.
Van Slyke has been out of coaching since 2009 when he left the staff in Detroit, where he worked with McClendon. He reached out to McClendon to express interest in returning to coaching in Seattle.
“He was excited for the opportunity to coach with me again,” McClendon said. “Andy is probably the most impressive practice coach I have ever been around.”
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