Sep 21, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitterJason Kipnis
(22) stands in the on deck circle against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Could trading the Indians starting second baseman be an improvement for the Tribe?
There’s an age old saying that in order to get something good, you have to give up something good. This is something most baseball fans seem to forget about when making up fake trades with their buddies in the bars. Undoubtedly, players like Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton have been theoretically traded for scrub players making big money or entrenched veterans that have fallen out of favor with the locals due to an injury plagued season (here’s looking at you, Nick Swisher). More often than not the big namers are never moved and the mob put away their pitch forks for the moment.
With the winter meetings starting this week, let’s put on our GM caps and pretend to be Chris Antonetti for a little bit and look at the value of a player most fans, myself included, are loathe to move: Jason Kipnis. First off, we need to identify why he would be put on the market by the Tribe and why he would be worth the look from other teams.
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Why would the Tribe trade Kipnis?: To say his 2014 was underwhelming is an understatement. After his breakout 2013 campaign, 2014 was being looked at as his finally being counted amongst the 5 best at his position. Injuries played a part as he struggled with an oblique injury early on in the season that seemed to hamper his swing throughout the season. He ended up slashing .240/.310/.330, leaving much to be desired after hitting .284/.366/.452 the year before. The speed was still there, totaling 22 bases. But after consecutive 30 steal seasons, the argument being that time lost to the DL cost him.
All of this contributes to selling low on a hitter that could have been struggling with an injury last year. So why sell low? Because Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are both that good. Ramirez is expected to be the starting shortstop at the beginning of the year but Lindor’s advancement through the minors could entice the team to make room for him on the big club. That could mean someone off the 40 man is gone, and Kipnis would garner the best return out of the 25 man roster.
Another reason Kipnis could get the most bang for the buck would be his generally low cost for the next couple of years, in relation to the open market. He is set to make $4.17 million in 2015, a super bargain if he were to reach close to 2013 numbers. He doesn’t start to become expensive until 2018, when he is due $13.67 million in his age 31 season, after his projected peak and when his speed could become an issue. To a team in win now mode, or one with deep pockets, those later year payments could be of no worry.
What would the Tribe get?: This is where it becomes fun to think about a possible Kipnis trade. A 27 year old second baseman in the prime of his career, signed to a team friendly contract for the next 3 years would net interest from across the league. Teams that could use a boost of help at 2nd base could include Oakland, Washington, and Atlanta. There undoubtedly other teams that would get involved in talks, but lets focus on these 3 teams.
Could the Indians satisfy the hunt for the ever elusive right handed bat the fans are clamoring for by making a trade with Atlanta for the younger of the Upton brothers? It seems unlikely due to the fact that The Land is on the no trade list for Upton this year. Still, it calls to reason what Atlanta has done this offseason that they could be intrigued by Kipnis. The move to trade Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller got rid of a player likely to hit the free agent market for controllable assets. Maybe Oakland be willing to finalize the ongoing trade talks of Brandon Moss, adding to the pot maybe Jeff Samardzija, if Kipnis were made available along with what they have already hashed out? Those early years are right up Billy Beane’s alley and Kip could be swapped again before he got to cost them too much. Would Washington look to trade Jordan Zimmermann if extension talks hit a stand still like they have before? A rotation set with Corey Kluber, Zimmermann, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar and an upgraded defense behind them would cause most of the AL to have night sweats.
At the end of the day, most of these ideas will be completely shot down. The JK Kid will more than likely be back patrolling the keystone for the Tribe and will be coming into his own in 2015, finally healthy after a lost season. Some of these players will be traded, while others will be simply shopped around, bandied about in endless late night phone calls between GMs. But remember this when you’re out there talking to friends about who the Indians could get: you gotta give something to get something.