This was a great setup for a redemption story. Jason Kipnis, who nearly broke Cubs fans’ hearts in the ninth inning of Game 7 in 2016, was coming off three mediocre and injury-plagued seasons in Cleveland. A free agent after 2019, the Cubs signed him for a pittance after the Tribe bought out his 2020 option for $2.5 million.
It would have been a great story. Kipnis grew up in suburban Northbrook as a Cubs fan. For him to play well as a Cub in 2020, perhaps leading them to another World Series title in front of hometown family and friends would have been a great narrative.
And then the pandemic hit, and no one got to watch Kipnis or any other MLB player in person in 2020.
Kipnis hit a little bit better in 2020 than he had in the previous three seasons: .237/.341/.404, with three home runs in 114 at-bats. His 0.6 bWAR in 44 games might have been something in the area of 2.5 bWAR in a full season. His on-base percentage was his highest since 2016. He started just over half (31) of the Cubs’ 60 games at second base; his defense was just about what it had been in Cleveland, around replacement level.
Kipnis turns 34 in April. Bring him back? I’m on the fence here. He could be a useful veteran presence, but on the other hand he doesn’t play any position other than second base and in modern baseball, being versatile increases your value. With questions as to whether the DH will be retained in the National League in 2021, he could be a useful pinch-hitter, but there’s scant evidence he can succeed in that role — lifetime as a PH, he’s just 1-for-15 with four walks.
The Cubs already have a couple of other players who can play a competent second base in Nico Hoerner and David Bote, though questions remain about Hoerner’s offense. Kipnis might be superfluous in a year where there isn’t a 28-man roster.
All of this leads me to conclude that the Cubs likely thank Kipnis for his year of service and let him go somewhere else, unless they can bring him back at a low price.
Should the Cubs re-sign Jason Kipnis?
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