5:08pm: The two sides have agreed to a deal, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Kipnis, a Beverly Hills Sports Council client, will earn $1MM if he makes the club. He can boost that base salary via performance bonuses.
3:30pm: The Cubs are “zeroing in” on free-agent second baseman Jason Kipnis, tweets ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com adds that the two sides are working to finish up a minor league deal and non-roster invite to Spring Training. Kipnis still has to take a physical before any deal is complete, however.
Kipnis, 32, was once a star-caliber second baseman with the Indians, who signed him to a $52.5MM extension back in 2014. He was excellent both in 2013 and 2015, making a pair of All-Star teams and garnering MVP votes in each of those seasons. On the whole, from the time he debuted through the completion of the 2016 season, Kipnis batted a combined .272/.345/.423 while averaging 17 homers, 38 doubles and 25 steals per 162 games played.
However, over the pat three seasons, Kipnis simply hasn’t hit much, combining for just a .236/.305/.403 slash (86 OPS+) in 1485 plate appearances. His decline eliminated any surprise over the Indians’ decision to pay a $2.5MM buyout on what once looked to be a reasonable $16.5MM club option for the 2020 season.
The Cubs’ second base mix is muddled, at best. Nico Hoerner hit .282 in 82 plate appearances late in the year but managed only a .305 on-base percentage. He’s also yet to play a game in Triple-A. Former first-round pick Ian Happ has yet to establish himself in the Majors, and late-blooming David Bote has been more of a utility player than an everyday option at Wrigley. The versatile Daniel Descalso flopped in his first year with Chicago, posting an alarming .173/.271/.250 slash in 194 plate appearances. Non-roster options include Hernan Perez, Carlos Asuaje and Corban Joseph. The Chicago-born Kipnis, however, figures to have a very legitimate chance of cracking the roster and suiting up to play his home games at Wrigley Field — just 19 miles from the high school he attended.