As we approach Opening Day in less than a month, teams around the league are looking to lock up a few key players on longer term deals. Many players don’t want the distraction carrying into the season, so these next few weeks are about all the time teams will have until the winter to negotiate long term deals with some of their assets. This appears to be the case with the Cleveland Indians and Jason Kipnis.
There are no shortage of reports that the two sides are attempting to come together on a long term contract. Kipnis isn’t a free agent until 2018, and is on a six figure contract heading into the 2014 season. Nonetheless, with Kipnis becoming arbitration eligible next winter, the Indians would like to work something out with their young second baseman, who they consider a franchise building block. All indications are that the two sides should be able to get something done, it’s just a matter of what it may look like.
Kipnis has barely over two years of service time to date with the Indians, slashing .270/.349/.424/.773 across 337 games and 1,480 plate appearances. He’s hit 14 and 17 homers in the last two years, respectively, and has tallied at least 75 runs knocked in each of the last two as well. The 2013 season was particularly impressive for Kipnis, as he reached base at a .366 clip and was named an All Star for the first time in his career. His wRC+ for the year was a sweet 130.
Given his propensity for making contact and laying off pitches outside of the zone (just a 20.9 swinging percentage at pitches outside of the strike zone), Kipnis is an on-base machine. His defense wasn’t overly impressive last year, but he still managed to go for a 4.5 WAR. If he can improve that aspect, he’s easily a five WAR guy for the Tribe. But what might a contract cost the Indians?
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes the similarities between Jason Kipnis and Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals as far as their contracts could be concerned. Carpenter signed a six-year deal, worth $52 million earlier this offseason. The similarities between the two, in terms of their performance, are there. Carpenter hit less home runs and knocked in a few less runs, but posted a higher batting average and reached base at a .392 percentage, also higher than Kipnis. Carpenter also has less service time. There is certainly a reasonable comparison to be made between the two, though, if you’re looking for a benchmark of what Kipnis could be looking at in a new contract.
The Indians aren’t exactly in a position where they can throw money around as they please. Also trying to extend Justin Masterson, the Tribe has to be smart with its funds. But when it comes to Jason Kipnis, he’s a guy they obviously want to keep around for a long time, so the money will be there when they need it. It’s just a matter of when an extension could come to complete fruition between the two sides.