Chicago Cubs: Jason Kipnis comes home with an eye on second base

Jason Kipnis / Chicago Cubs (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
Jason Kipnis / Chicago Cubs (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

Remembered as an opponent from the 2016 World Series, veteran infielder Jason Kipnis now has a chance to play a critical role for the Chicago Cubs.

When I hear ‘Jason Kipnis‘ – I think of that foul ball he hit down the right field line in the 2016 World Series that, off the bat, stopped my heart. Thankfully, it was just that – a foul ball – and the Chicago Cubs went on to win their first title in over a century.

But now, Kipnis is in camp with the Cubs, looking to win the second base job. His signing with Chicago represents a full circle, given he grew up in the suburbs, coming to Wrigley Field for games as a fan.

More from Cubbies Crib

"“It made sense. It did. It really did. I didn’t fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life, and how many people still — friends and family — still live in Chicago. It’s going to be exciting.”"

Kipnis isn’t the guy he was five years ago. Last season, he managed an underwhelming .304 OBP, appearing in just 121 ballgames for the Cleveland Indians. He still had a decent amount of pop, hitting 17 home runs and 23 doubles. But what he really brings to the table is a proven presence to compete for the second base job.

Besides Ben Zobrist, who will not play in 2020, Chicago hasn’t seen consistent production at the second base position in some time. Addison Russell had been a below-average player the last couple of years and last season saw a myriad of guys come and go as Joe Maddon searched for an answer.

This year, first-year manager David Ross has a ton of guys vying for time at second, including Kipnis, Robel Garcia, Daniel Descalso, David Bote and highly-regarded prospect Nico Hoerner. Now, if it were up to me, Hoerner would spend time with the big league team this spring and then head to Des Moines, opening the season with the Triple-A club.

He made quite the impression last season in an emergency call-up. With both Baez and Russell sidelined, Chicago didn’t have anywhere else to turn – and Hoerner didn’t disappoint. But you need to think big picture here. Hoerner hasn’t taken a single at-bat above Double-A and was drafted less than two years ago.

With that plan, someone like Kipnis becomes even more critical for the Cubs. I suspect we’ll see a platoon at second, with Kipnis taking the majority of reps against right-handers and someone like Bote or Descalso against lefties given they’re both fairly split-neutral.

"“It’s exciting to get veteran big leaguers that have been in big situations, put up good numbers,” Ross said of Kipnis. “I look at him as a guy that’s coming in and competing for a second base job, a spot that we’ve got a lot of good players at. He’s got a great resume. … I’m a fan from playing against him and seeing him on the other side.”"

Next. Almora hoping to put a disappointing 2019 behind him. dark

Time will tell if Kipnis has enough left in the tank to lock down the second base job. But if playing in front of the Wrigley faithful and coming home breathes new life into his career, he might just capture a spark that could help the Cubs in 2020.