The Mets and Indians very nearly pulled off a deal that would have sent Jason Kipnis to New York, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. Upper management — Heyman hints on the Mets side — ended up scuttling a deal that seemed to be in place.
Kipnis was widely rumored to be on New York’s radar last month. For the Mets, the veteran would have plugged a hole at second base. And for the Indians, the considerations were mostly financial, as Kipnis is due $30.5MM on his deal (covering two more seasons along with a buyout on a 2020 option).
It was money, it seems, that caused the hang-up here. While the prospect cost was not prohibitive, Heyman says that “Mets higher-ups didn’t see Kipnis as good value.” Whether Cleveland would have paid down any portion of the remaining obligations in the proposed agreement is not known.
At this point, it would appear that the odds of talks re-opening are low. The Mets just landed free agent slugger Jay Bruce in a move that will occupy a significant portion of their remaining payroll availability. On the Indians’ side, moving the Kipnis contract likely would have helped facilitate their pursuit of Carlos Santana, but he reportedly agreed to terms with the Phillies on December 15th — right after the Mets/Kipnis talk heated up and before it died down.
In any event, the Mets do still need a second baseman — or, perhaps, a third baseman who’d bump Asdrubal Cabrera over to second. As Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote this morning, it seems the club still has a variety of open-market possibilities to consider in the infield. Todd Frazier, Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker, and Jose Reyes are evidently still on the team’s radar, while other trade options are presumably still on the table. (Puma does suggest that free agent Mike Moustakas and trade candidate Starlin Castro are not seen as viable options.)
For the Indians, meanwhile, the latest indication is that the team will utilize Kipnis at his native position of second base after having bumped him to the outfield late last year. Presumably he could still be moved in the right deal, but the organization may also mostly be preparing to hang on and hope he can return to form. While Kipnis limped to a .232/.291/.414 batting line in an injury-limited 2017 season, he carried a composite .289/.357/.460 line over the prior two seasons and has typically graded as a quality defender.