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02/19/08 5:20 PM EST
Rangers lock up Kinsler for five years
New $22 million pact includes two years of free agency
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Last month, Rangers owner Tom Hicks told a group of luxury-suite holders that Ian Kinsler "isn't going anywhere."
That was when negotiations on a long-term contract were bogged down and in danger of breaking off. They aren't anymore. The owner was right.
Kinsler could be around through at least 2012 after agreeing to a five-year, $22 million contract with the Rangers on Tuesday. The contract calls for a club option for 2013 at $10 million with a five-year buyout.
"This is a big day for me and my family," Kinsler said. "I've been working my whole life to get to this point, since my dad first started taking me out in the backyard and started throwing the baseball with me.
"I was not trying to set the bar and make the most money for a second baseman. I'm just here to play the game and be treated fairly. All I wanted the Rangers to do is step up and make a commitment to me. They did, and I made a commitment to them."
The Rangers, who made similar deals with Hank Blalock and Michael Young early in their careers, wanted to make a statement that Kinsler will be a leader for the next wave of young players on the verge of coming through the system.
"He's going to have a big impact on those guys," said assistant general manager Thad Levine, who negotiated the deal with Kinsler's cadre of business advisors.
"It's big for us," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It has been pretty clear since Day 1 that Ian is the type of person we want to be about and invest in. Ian has performed at a high level and I would expect him to continue to improve."
The one giving Kinsler the most advice was Young, who signed a four-year contract at a similar point in his career in 2004 and then a five-year, $80 million contract extension last year. Kinsler leaned on Young heavily for advice at almost every juncture of the negotiations.
I'm happy for both sides," Young said. "I'm happy for Kins -- now that this is out of the way he can focus on baseball. And I'm happy for the organization for realizing they had a great player on their hands and made sure he wasn't going anywhere."
Kinsler is beginning his third season with the Rangers. He was their Rookie of the Year in 2006 and followed that up by hitting .263 with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs in 130 games. He also led the Rangers with 96 runs and 23 stolen bases.
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"I'm not worried about the money," Kinsler said. "I'll play the game regardless if I make $5 or $1 trillion. Money doesn't bring respect. The way you play the game regardless brings respect. When I finish my career, my legacy won't be how much money I make but how I played the game on the field."
The deal keeps Kinsler from going through arbitration and gives the Rangers at least one, and possibly two, years before he can become a free agent. Kinsler gets a $1 million signing bonus and a $500,000 contract for 2008. It goes up to $3 million in 2009, $4 million in 2010, $6 million in 2011 and $7 million in 2012. The option would keep him with the Rangers through 2013.
"It's fair to both parties," said Kinsler's agent Jay Franklin. "I don't know if it's a win for either side. In a perfect world we might have waited a year and see what happens. But it was the player's decision. Ian loves the city and the organization, and this is what he and [his wife] Tess wanted to do."