As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes detailed earlier this week, the Cubs are coming off a rather quiet offseason. There were no earth-shattering trades, no significant free-agent signings. The high-payroll club doled out just $3.5MM in guaranteed contracts over the winter, though it did add at least a couple familiar names by way of the minor league market. One of those pickups, longtime Indian Jason Kipnis, is vying to begin the season as the Cubs’ starting second baseman. The position was a sore spot last year for a what was overall a disappointing Chicago team – one that received little from Ben Zobrist (who missed a sizable portion of the season because of a personal matter), Addison Russell and Daniel Descalso. The lone member of that trio still with the organization is Descalso, who’s competing with Kipnis and a couple others to become rookie manager Davis Ross’ Opening Day choice at the keystone. Here’s a rundown of the quartet that’s in the mix…
- Jason Kipnis: He was a two-time All-Star in Cleveland during his heyday, but it has been a few years since Kipnis even came close to putting up average offensive production. The 32-year-old’s .245/.304/.410 line in 511 plate appearances in 2019 helped prevent him from scoring a guaranteed contract in his first trip to free agency. Kipnis was much better during the second half of the season, though, and the left-handed hitter was playable against right-handed pitchers. As someone who has regularly performed better versus righties than southpaws, he could wind up as part of a platoon for the Cubs.
- Daniel Descalso: The normally light-hitting Descalso had a solid season with the Diamondbacks in 2018, thereby convincing the Cubs to give him a two-year, $5MM guarantee in the ensuing winter. Thus far, however, the deal has blown up in the team’s face. Descalso, 33, limped to a .173/.271/.250 line with just two home runs in 194 trips to the plate. Along the way, his ISO (.077) dropped off 121 points from the prior season, while his strikeout and walk rates also trended in the wrong direction.
- David Bote: The versatile Bote, 26, recorded adequate numbers for the second straight year in 2019, slashing .257/.362/.422 with 11 homers and 1.5 fWAR in 356 PA. On paper, it may make sense to attempt a platoon between the right-handed Bote and Kipnis, but Bote actually posted far superior production versus same-handed pitchers than southpaws last season.
- Nico Hoerner: The 22-year-old Hoerner debuted with the Cubs last September, at which point the recent first-round pick (No. 24 in 2018) was regarded as a top-50 prospect. Hoerner ultimately didn’t log great numbers in his initial taste of MLB action (.282/.305/.436), but it was just an 82-PA sample; furthermore, it was the first time Hoerner had even played above the Double-A ball, making it all the more understandable he didn’t light the league on fire in his initial try. Hoerner may end up as Chicago’s long-term solution at second, but if the club doesn’t think he’s ready yet, it’ll have the option of sending him to Triple-A Iowa for more seasoning and regular playing time.