Will the Cubs bring back Jason Kipnis next season or is it the end of the road?
The Chicago Cubs and Jason Kipnis were good for each other last year – mostly since it was a 60-game schedule. Without the grind of a 162-game calendar, Kipnis slotted in perfectly for the team. Now the question becomes: will the team bring him back in 2021?
The longtime Cleveland staple finished the year with a .972 fielding percentage in 36 games (31 starts) – the worst since his rookie year (.963) in 2011. Pair this with the fact that other metrics, namely UZR (-0.9 in 2020 – down from 8.2 in 2016), point to a declining defensive skillset (hardly a surprise at this point in his career) and you get a set of data that’s definitely worth considering when talking about a reunion.
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In 2015, he hit .303 – the only year he’s batted .300. He’s hit .260 for his career, with a wRC+ of 103. In the last four years (including 2020), he’s had a slash line of .236/.308/.403 with an OPS of .711. Simply put, he’s not the guy he once was – but that’s OK.
One aspect of Kipnis’ results this season stood out – and not in a good way. His strikeout rate was the highest of his career (30.4 percent). Mind you; like most guys, he was limited in how much he could prepare and stay fresh early in the year. The pandemic limited what players could do while awaiting the start of the season. He came in and did what he could at the dish – but it wasn’t much.
At one point in his career, he was a real threat at the dish. But the last four years have offered evidence of a steep decline for the Northbrook native. He did manage to up his walk rate to 13.3 percent this season – the best of his career. But, again, he struck out more than ever before, as well.
In the end, I’d sign Kipnis to at least a one-year deal. Do you have any other choice? Nico Hoerner isn’t fit to be a second baseman – at least not yet. People forget: he came up to the bigs straight from Double-A. He needs further development, especially at the plate, before he’s ready to take the full-time job at second.
One area Kipnis does make a ton of sense is in regards to his fit. He’s a leader in the clubhouse and we heard that time and time again this year. That might offer enough value to Chicago to keep him around – and hopefully he can improve on that .237 average while he’s at it.