Chicago Cubs: For the Cubbies, it’s “who’s on second?”

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates steals second base ahead of a tag attempt by Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs in the sixth inning during the game at PNC Park on September 26, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates steals second base ahead of a tag attempt by Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs in the sixth inning during the game at PNC Park on September 26, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: For the Cubbies, it’s “who’s on second?”

The hometown boy

When Kipnis played second base for the Cleveland Indians during the 2016 World Series, much was made of the fact that he was from a Chicago suburb and had grown up watching the Chicago Cubs. If you were a Cub fan, you assumed that:

  • A. Your team would find a dramatic way to lose the World Series, and
  • B. What more dramatic way than at the hands of a kid who dreamed of playing for the Cubs?

That didn’t happen – although Kipnis did bat .290 with two home runs in that Series. Now, at age 32 and what appears to be the tail end of his big league career – Kipnis gets a chance to play as a Cub at Wrigley Field, having signed a $1 million minor-league deal.

There are problems with the fairy tale ending Cubs fans may be thinking about. The biggest is that Kipnis no longer appears to be Kipnis. Offensively, his numbers have steadily declined since 2015, when he batted .303, was an All-Star and got MVP support. Since then Kipnis’ OPS+ has tracked downward from 120 to 109, then to 81, then 90 and 84 in 2019.

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Injuries sidelined him in 2017 and again last year, although the hamate fracture that cost him 41 games last year should be fully healed.

Still, Kipnis hit just .245 in 2019 with a .305 on-base average and hasn’t topped .280 since 2015. Do the Cubs really need another .245 hitter who can’t take a walk? He’s also been sub-par with his glove, producing negative defensive runs saved numbers at second for each of the past three seasons.

Kipnis, then, has to prove to Ross that he is over his recent problems or his stay in camp may end when bags are packed. The Cubs obviously think that might happen, or they wouldn’t have seen any point in giving him a look.

Likelihood of Kipnis as the opening day starter at second base: 10 percent.