Jason Kipnis is a free agent for the first time in his career. Having spent his entire Major League Baseball life with the Cleveland Indians, there is a possibility that he might not be re-signed. Kipnis enters the 2020 season as a 33-year-old and Cleveland may want to move on to a younger player.
For prospective teams, Kipnis can play in an everyday role. He’s primarily a second baseman but played a handful of games in the outfield in 2017 and 2018. Ideally, for Kipnis, he will be playing every day next year in Cleveland, but he knows that “it would be too hard to get something done.” While he is set on being an everyday player, that might come at the cost of waiting longer than expected.
The Road Ahead for Jason Kipnis
In 121 games in 2019, he hit .245/.304/.410 with 17 Home Runs and 65 RBI. Kipnis is a two-time all-star who may need a change of scenery. He would likely take a one-year deal and bet on himself. According to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, “Given the number of second base alternatives both in free agency and on the trade market, it’s quite possible that Kipnis will eventually have to settle for a one-year deal.” One of the biggest comparisons to his 32-year-old season, according to Baseball-Reference, is Neil Walker, who only made $2 million during the 2019 season. Kipnis made $12 million in 2019 and will likely make less in 2020.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have an exciting young core. One of the things this team is missing is veteran leadership. With the possibility of Justin Smoak leaving the Blue Jays in free agency, they have the youngest team in baseball and don’t really have a veteran presence. Kipnis is able to provide that. Although Cavan Biggio is the second baseman of the future, the Blue Jays can also use Kipnis there. The Blue Jays have let Devon Travis go into free agency and may not be sold on Richard Urena. Signing Kipnis could make that spot on the roster quite competitive. He might come cheap and short-term, both of which intrigue the Blue Jays front office — the same front office led by Mark Shapiro, who drafted Jason Kipnis in 2009 while with the Cleveland Indians.
The Cleveland Indians are the only major league team Jason Kipnis has ever known. They drafted him, developed him, and saw his potential to become an all-star. Kipnis helped Cleveland win the pennant in 2016 and is a fan favorite. Although Mike Freeman seems to be the better and younger option at second base, it would be hard for them to depart from Jason Kipnis. In 75 games with Cleveland in 2019, Freeman hit .277/.362/.390. As Freeman isn’t a free agent until 2025, the Indians may want to use him full-time starting in 2020.
Kansas City Royals
Given that the American League Central division is all Jason Kipnis knows, he could be useful when against their division rivals. Since the Royals have a new manager, a veteran is essential for understanding life in the big leagues while acting as a mediator between rookie and coach. The Royals starting second baseman is Nicky Lopez, who had a rocky rookie season in 2019. Entering his 25-year-old season, Kipnis could take Lopez under his wing and hopefully turn him into a perennial all-star by following his example. Lopez may not be ready to play a full 162-game season, so Kipnis can fill in when needed.
If the season were to start today, the best option for the Diamondbacks at second base and center field is Ketel Marte. As great as Marte was in 2019, he can’t play two positions at once. The Diamondbacks used Marte more in the outfield in 2019 than in the infield. Assuming they continue this trend, then the team is in need of a second baseman, especially now that Wilmer Flores is a free agent. Jason Kipnis also happened to play baseball at Arizona State University. He already chose to play in Arizona once, why not again?