As nice of a feel-good story as it might be, bringing in Chicago native Jason Kipnis would do nothing when it comes to improving the Chicago Cubs in 2020.
When someone mentions Jason Kipnis and the Chicago Cubs in the same sentence, they’d better be talking about the former getting the chance to play in the World Series at Wrigley Field three years ago and not the possibility of the Northbrook native joining the Cubs via free agency this winter.
On Friday, the Cleveland Indians declined their $16.5 million option on Kipnis, opting instead for a $4.5 million buyout. That move hardly comes as a surprise after the veteran second baseman struggled for the third consecutive year as Cleveland missed the postseason for the first time since 2015.
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That oddly coincides with the Cubs also missing out on the chance to play October baseball for the first time in the Joe Maddon era that drew to a close at the end of the year. Of course, the two teams went head-to-head in an instant classic in 2016, with Chicago emerging with its first World Series title in more than a century after a dramatic Game 7 victory at Progressive Field.
During that series, Kipnis, long considered one of the Indians’ franchise players, batted .290 with a pair of home runs – including his first at the Friendly Confines. But the fond memories Cleveland fans have of the two-time All-Star may have waned a bit since 2016, as Kipnis has struggled a great deal in recent years.
Since the start of the 2017 season, he has limped to a .708 OPS – and has looked like a shell of his former self. But, despite it all, he’s still just 32 years old and could very well have a few more years in the tank – if he can stay healthy. That’ just it – that’s a big gamble given he has played in 121 or fewer games in two of the last three years.
In terms of WPA (win probablity added), he’s been a negative value player for three years now. Knowing all this, it seems pretty obvious that Kipnis isn’t the type of player the Cubs should be targeting this winter.
Chicago has a need at second base that can only be classified as glaring given their complete lack of production from the position this year. In theory, Ben Zobrist could return – but at this point, he’s your go-to bench guy, not a starting second baseman – at least not a regular one.
David Bote might see time there, along with Nico Hoerner, who impressed in his late-season debut in 2019. But adding a steadying presence to the roster and the batting order will be critical. Someone like Eric Sogard could be a good fit – but given Kipnis’ recent injury woes and on-field struggles, this potential feel-good story seems unlikely to gain legs.