Chicago Cubs: Beware Jason Kipnis struggles from the past

Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs signed a familiar face this winter, bringing Jason Kipnis back to his home state of Illinois. The numbers aren’t what they used to be, however, and the Cubs need to beware

The Chicago Cubs’ Jason Kipnis was a steady hitter for his first few years in the Majors, accruing a wRC+ of 100 or better in four of his first five seasons, and three 4.5+ WAR seasons according to Fangraphs. This winter, the Cubs signed Kipnis to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Minor league deals are never a bad thing, they are low risk, and if the player is terrible, they can quickly be released.

After 2016 after the Cubs beat Kipnis’ Indians in the World Series, Kipnis has been far from the same player he was. He has not posted a wRC+ above 90 and had a WAR less than 2.5 every season. He has taken a step back, and it’s fair to ask just how much he has left?

Kipnis will be 33 in April, and he very well may have aged poorly, but maybe a little home cooking and a change of scenery are what he needs to get going again. This is a similar spot to former Cubs great (“former Cubs great” is said facetiously, so it’d be cool if you left it in. LOL), Chris Coghlan. Coghlan was released from the Marlins and progressively got worse every season, his final year being a .256/.318/.354 line in just 70 games, plagued by injuries and stints in the minors, he could just never find it.

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The Cubs signed him, and he had the best two seasons of his Major League career., posting a 2.4 WAR season in 2014 and followed that up with a 3.1 in 2015. His wRC+ in these two seasons was 126 and 113,  and he set a career-high in home runs with 16 in 2015. His most memorable Cubs highlight came in 2016, though, when he did this.

The point is the Cubs have a history in turning around players with minimal success over their past few seasons, and maybe Kipnis is the next one. He was competing for the starting spot at second base before the coronavirus shut everything down.

ZiPS has Kipnis playing 121 games, hitting 15 home runs with 65 RBI and a .253/.320/.418 slash line, suitable for a 91 wRC+, which is still below average, but even better than his last three years.

Kipnis does add a contact element to the Cubs, which they have missed during this window, and it sounds like a broken record at this point, but they desperately need a player who can make consistent contact. His strikeout percentage has decreased the past three seasons, so that’s one positive.

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When and if the season gets going, Kipnis may get a roster spot based on name and experience alone, and hopefully, he proves the Cubs right for taking a chance on him.