Jason Kipnis has signed a deal with the Braves, as the veteran infielder announced himself via his Twitter feed. The MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that the contract is a minor league pact with an invitation to the Braves’ Spring Training camp.
After signing a minor league deal with the Cubs last season, Kipnis ended up getting regular work at second base, getting a bit more playing time than young platoon partner Nico Hoerner. Albeit in the smaller sample size of only 135 plate appearances, Kipnis delivered his best offensive performance in four seasons, hitting .237/.341/.404 with three home runs, good for a slightly above-average 101 OPS+ and 103 wRC+. On the down side, Kipnis didn’t make much hard contact and his strikeout rate ballooned to a career-high 30.4%.
Much of Kipnis’ production last season came against right-handed pitching, so he could move on from platooning with Hoerner to platooning with another promising youngster in Atlanta’s Austin Riley at third base. The wrinkle is that third base would be a new position for Kipnis, who has never played the hot corner in the big leagues and last played third base for four games of Arizona Fall League action back in 2010.
Ozzie Albies naturally has second base locked down in Atlanta, but since Kipnis has experience playing center field with the Indians in 2019, the Braves could deploy him as a backup outfielder. Rookie Cristian Pache (another right-handed bat) is slated for regular center field duty, and Kipnis could occasionally spell Pache against some right-handed starters.
A two-time All-Star back in his prime years in Cleveland, Kipnis began to decline as he entered his 30’s, hitting just .236/.305/.403 over 1485 PA from 2017-19. Now entering his age-34 campaign, Kipnis will look to provide some experience and multi-positional versatility off the Braves’ bench.
Albies expendable now
I’m not sure how this Kipnis deal is going to work out but since this is a Braves article I will go ahead and share my thoughts on the Travis Demeritte pick-up and potential moves for the rest of Atlanta’s free agency:
I’m hoping for the best for Travis Demeritte. I have to say I’m a little surprised Atlanta cut Jeremy Walker to make room on the roster for him though. I know Walker is just a right handed reliever with a history of shoulder injury but the bullpen is one of the Braves biggest needs right now. Walker has actually been really good when he has pitched. Demeritte was really only good in 2019. He was in the minors then and he played in the best hitters league in professional baseball. It also happened to be the exact same season the baseball was more juiced than ever. A lot of players had great offensive outlier seasons that year and especially in that league. He never really did that well before that and has done terrible since Atlanta traded him to Detroit. I figure a minor leaguer with options has to be pretty bad for even the Detroit Tigers to not want to spend a roster spot on him even though they just recently traded Shane Greene to get him. Maybe he will be better back with the Braves coaching or maybe Walker’s shoulder injury has damaged him more than we know and the Braves have lost faith in him.
Some wishful thinking for Atlanta fans is that the Braves are in the process of doing one of those free agent “trade” player swaps with the San Diego Padres. The Padres had Trevor Rosenthal as their closer last season and the Braves had Mark Melancon. Now that the Padres have signed Melancon it seems like they won’t be going after Rosenthal. The absence of Melancon leaves a perfect Trevor Rosenthal sized hole in the Braves bullpen. If they re-sign Shane Greene and replace the combination of Melancon and Darren O’Day with Rosenthal I think the Braves bullpen actually becomes much better than it was last season. Rosenthal was so dominant he could immediately slide into the permanent closer role allowing them to use guys like Will Smith, Chris Martin, A.J. Minter and Tyler Matzek in leverage situations. This might be too much to ask for though. Rosenthal is going to cost noticeably more than Melancon or Greene and I doubt the Braves are looking to spend that kind of money after the Marcell Ozuna re-signing.
I think I have a perfect low cost/high upside solution for the Braves bench. They definitely need a top of the line bench player to go along with Johan Camargo. My suggestion is to just go ahead and sign Yasiel Puig again. If they do decide to bring back the universal designated hitter, Puig would be the perfect candidate to replace Adam Duvall in left field and allow Ozuna to shift back to DH. If Cristian Pache sputters offensively during his rookie season, Puig would be the perfect candidate to play right field allowing Ronald Acuna, Jr. to shift back to center field. If neither of those things happen, Puig would be a perfect #1 bench player/ #1 pinch hitter/ #4 outfielderr. At this point I would much rather have Puig coming to the plate over Ender Inciarte, Camargo, Pablo Sandoval or any of the other potential bench guys we have. The best part about a Puig deal is the cost. He was going to be dirt cheap last season when he was ranked a top 40 free agent. After not playing at all last season Puig isn’t even considered to be a top 50 free agent now. He is actually ranked below guys like Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Darren O’Day and even Cole Hamels. He could easily be signed to a one year deal worth no more than a few million dollars. That’s nothing compared to the Braves paying Inciarte around $10 million next season (including his million dollar buyout the Braves are certain to take advantage of). The last time Puig played he was still a very productive hitter with a serviceable batting average and over 20 home runs. He has had great years in the recent past. He still has a cannon for an arm. He hits both righties and lefties so he is a perfect pinch hitter regardless of who the pitcher is. Most importantly, Puig is still relatively young. I think it is more likely that he gets better than he gets worse.
Those are my thoughts on those situations when it comes to Atlanta. Let me know what you think.
We’ll let you know next season, after we get done reading this novel.
Dude just start a blog or something
@BrittinghamSports … I appreciate your comments unlike others. Thank you for taking the time to write your analysis. I think your comments are spot on. I don’t think it’s necessary for people to get nasty since it’s unproductive when you didn’t say anything except what was on your mind.
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
I don’t see nasty, I see playful humor. Lighten up baseballfanfornever.
Sir, this is a Wendy’s.
@Curly… Let’s see, criticize the content or criticize the writer and his style ? Hmmmmm … Is that laughing with or laughing at ? I’m not sure… Hahaha picking on people is so funny isn’t it ? Great times.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
@brittingham. I agree with you except on Puig.
So this is the answer for 3rd? A platoon with Riley.
He could be a somewhat decent player to have on the bench. Surely this is a minor league deal.
I figure he will battle it out with Demeritte for reserve utility type. Both could play third in a pinch I guess.
I don’t think he has the arm for third.
No he does not. Kipnis is suited only for 1B and 2B in the field. One of the weakest throwing arms you’ll ever see.
It’s basically equivalent to a wet noodle
The answer at 3rd is Riley. In now way should kipnis even be considered over there in any fashion. Riley is fine. Our lineup stacks well enough where we can still afford to let him figure it out. Y’all got to remember that Riley has yet to even play a full season worth of games at the MLB level and some of y’all want to throw him in the trash. His ups are elite lvl ups, and yes his downs are a different lvl of bad down. But if you told me I could get a .230-.240 hitter with 26 bombs in less than 162 games from a rookie, id take that deal. Kid definitely needs to get on base more, but that sort of thing typically improves with age. So y’all relax on him. He very well might be the answer. He has .240 with 40 bombs potential. If he can start getting on base more, watch out
I agree. I think Riley may be the answer if he is given the chance. The Braves right now really don’t have any other options so why not ?
True. There is enough depth for him to work out the issues. He’s still super young, and we all have to remember he hasn’t even played a full 162. He will get more consistent and we will know what he brings soon
I’m not convinced on Riley. I’m more comfortable with them giving him a chance with Ozuna back in the fold, though. That pushes Riley down in the order some.
My big concern is Riley struggles and Pache doesn’t hit. Pache is an elite CF defender, so I’m fine with it if he struggles at the plate. It could be rough sledding if Riley hits .185 though, too. We won’t know until we know, however.
The options left to realistically supplant Riley probably aren’t worth robbing him of the chance, though. Unless one of the Ohio teams decide to part with their 3B.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
@bravesfan. I agree.
I have high hopes for what Chipper Jones can do for Riley.
Have you watched Kipnis throw? Clearly not if you are asking that question.
Why, I get a vet off the bench but we need to sign Greene in the pen
Braves do have a lot of good LHP relievers in guys like Matzek, Minter and Smith. Their only real reliable RHP reliever is Chris Martin. Maybe Bryse Wilson if they put him in the pen long term, but it would help them to get another more proven RH arm for the pen. Maybe swing a trade with the Pirates for Richard Rodriguez and/or Chris Stratton?
This is a minors deal. It shouldn’t have any impact on Greene re-signing or not.
This is a good move and if the season started today, our glaring weakness is our bench (especially with no DH). This is a good minor league pickup in hopes he turned into something. I mean think about it, right now as of today, our best bench bat might be either Camargo or Ender.. like think about how bad that is for a second
Ducky Buckin Fent
Some of you guys are exactly why I much prefer hunting with only my dogs for company.
14 minutes after sunrise…
“There’s no ducks here! I knew we should have gone somewhere else. & why did you put goose decoys out too? We’re hunting ducks!”
A little patience, man.
& I’m pretty sure that the Braves front office can negotiate with more than just one player at a time.
Kipnis is kind of a Gardy of the grass. Patient hitter. Some LH pop. Very good glove. Can run.
Solid player. Solid pickup.
Bench option and depth move.
I always find hanger-ons just want one last paycheck
Kipnis never saw a shift he didn’t hit into, his fielding is below average, and his arm is so weak you have a hard time understanding how he ever got into baseball. What’s most mind-blowing when you realize how mediocre his game is, is that he was pulling down $15M/year in CLE. Granted he’s no Chris Davis, but this guy had the whole FO fooled when they offered him that insane extension.
Albies will not be moved. Team friendly contract, young, Acuna’s best friend.
I hope you were kidding
Of course. Though Demeritte is probably thinking , did they just sign a guy with my same skill set? He has minors options but a precarious position on the 40 man.
Obviously he was.
Minor league deal probably. Could be a good depth/bench move.
Given the terms, I like it. He gives them a decent bat off the bench if he makes the team. He can spell Ozzie and Freddie now and then. It’s solid.
Yeah, I guess they are still kinda looking for a backup ss for spring training. Johan may not be that guy. That will be interesting, plus how does ender look and do they really need him with Pache and Acuna?
I suspect they’ll use Camargo as a reserve on the left side of the diamond. I’m not sold on it, but I think that is the way they go.
They definitely need a 4th OF. Ender has zero value. His defense has slipped, and his bat doesn’t play on the OF corners. They could use him as a defensive sub for Ozuna, I guess. I wish they could ship him off with a prospect to shed the contract, though.
Now we know where the financial flexibility is going after backloading Ozuna’s contract.
It’s a minors deal with an invite. They’ve committed almost nothing to him salary-wise so far. Even if he makes the team, it’ll probably be a million dollars at most.
Thought he was a good left handed option for the Blue Jays bench. Oh well
This is purely a signing to bring competition to the guys fighting for a bench spot
If he makes the team he is a LH pinch hitter maybe playing a bit of 2B here & there maybe the OF if it’s needed
I would like Greene to be re-signed and think the Braves need a power bat for the bench maybe Travis Shaw who can get some reps at 3B
Love your thought process here. I agree on all lvls and love the Travis Shaw idea. Get Greene, shaw, maybe another get to compete for a bench spot and we are sitting pretty
Bench is a glaring weakness especially with no DH. Need to keep signing guys like this to provide some depth. Still would like 1 more bullpen move, but our bench is some kind of bad. Ender or Camargo are our best LF bats off the bench right now… that’s brutal
Kip doesn’t have the arm strength for 3B.
He doesn’t have the arm strength for 2nd but he can still hit a little bit.
He only has to get it to the pitcher, the cuff-off man.
Odd that MLBTR just had an article on Sunday speaking to the Cubs desire in adding a left-handed hitting 2B and last seasons strong side platoon option Jason Kipnis had to settle for a minor league deal with a Braves team in zero need of a player at the keystone position.
C’mon, Jed. Show Cubs fans you can dumpster dive better than this. Theo did last year and it worked out OK with the local kid putting up respectable numbers on a Cubs team that mostly sucked with its offensive production.
Kipnis is weak defensively, and can only play 2nd or a little first base. Strike out ratio was terrible. I think they would like someone that could play multiple positions, better defensively, and who would make more contact. Also, might be looking for someone that can play 3rd, if and when they trade Bryant.
The Cubs had all offseason to upgrade 2B while also potentially finding their much needed leadoff hitter in the process. They had a second opportunity in the last three offseasons to bring back D.J. LeMahieu and failed this winter because Tom Ricketts claimed they were hard up for cash. lol
Pitchers and catchers report for spring training in two days with the position players checking in later this week. At this point in time Jason Kipnis would have been better than anything they have done to address the position, especially on a minor league deal which they offered him last year. Most Cubs fans want future core 2B Nico Hoerner to finally spend some much needed time polishing his game as an MLB player at AAA Iowa, at least to begin the season, something he was not allowed to do the past two years because they didn’t address the position with an available free agent like LeMahieu. Assuming that Horner does open 2021 at AAA, the Cubs starting 2B as we post is David Bote. Kipnis would have been more than adequate as his platoon partner at 2B in lieu of any other options I currently see on their depth chart.
Btw: Jason Kipnis wasn’t as awful on defense at 2B as you suggest, at least according to his dWAR last season. Despite his high whiff rate which many Cubs hitters struggled with, he at least posted a respectable .341 OBP which was better than any other regular not named Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras and virtually matched the .342 that Anthony Rizzo posted. Kipnis also produced a .404 SLG that bested that of noted power hitters Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, lined up decently with Bote’s .408 and crushed hoerner’s putrid .259 metric.
Give it a rest White Sox fan.
I’ve forgotten more baseball than you’ve seen in your entire life unless you followed the Cubs and White Sox since the early 1960’s. You can give it a rest, pal.
Defense is atrocious. Anything he gives you with the bat he takes away with the glove. Cubs need a strong infield defense more than ever next year.
Exactly who is giving the Cubs that “strong infield defense” at 2B in 2021 as we post?
David Bote who should be a platoon option at best but more preferably a versatile utility player on any team with postseason ambitions?
Nico Hoerner who needs some regular AAA reps at 2B in order to justify his first round draft choice by the Cubs?
I’m not seeing any MLB ready 2B talent on the farm, are you?
At this point in time, the Cubs best bet might be to just trade Kris Bryant in the coming weeks and hope they can not only find a 2B but also a replacement for him at 3B. Considering his $19.5M salary this year, his pending free agency and the crap numbers he put up in 2020 good luck to Jed Hoyer finding any takers.
I’d love for the White Sox to make a play for Bryant as a potential future core corner OF but they’re not dealing Nick Madrigal to the Cubs and create their own hole at 2B. The ChiSox can just wait until next offseason and try signing KB as a free agent. I thought the Dodgers might have been a good match for a Bryant trade before they re-signed Justin Turner. The only contenders I see with a potential need a 3B in 2021 are the Braves or perhaps the Mets but time is running out.
Hoerner is the best defensive 2nd baseman. He played very well defensively last year. His offense will come. Trading Bryant right now, will not bring you a starting 2nd baseman, or a 3rd baseman. Not worried about 2nd base at all. Cubs just looking for left handed bat to help Hoerner out, and give them some balance.
Umm… Hoerner is very good defensively
The cubs missed the boat on Wong they may as well try out alcantara who they picked up off waivers. He can switch hit a supposedly very good defensively or make a trade. Free agent market appears to be dry.
Bote much better at third than second. He’s probably an average player at the corner. If the Cubs move Bryant he can take over for him. Yes a poor mans Kris Bryant. However last year Bryant was no better than Bote.
Kipnis has a little pop in his bat and was an average second baseman. I’d hate to see him at third or in the outfield for any team. Think similar to Daniel Murphy in the field. The Braves do not have a spot for him. He might make an opening day roster but probably elsewhere after Atlanta cuts him. He’s not going to report to AAA. Nothing left to prove – an average replacement player.
I’m not disputing Hoerner’s defense. I’m saying he needs to spend time at AAA to get his offense in gear, something he was never able to do after making his impressive MLB debut on September 9th, 2019 in San Diego as an ’emergency’ promotion from AA Tennessee after Javier Baez fractured his thumb and Addison Russell was beaned in the head and placed on concussion protocol. The Cubs had to call up Hoerner prematurely from AA because the Cubs AAA shortstop Dixon Machado was also injured at the time.
Kipnis will likely get some playing time, get some AB’s and if he performs make the team as a bench bat or parlay it to a deal with a new team, if not gets cut, and everyone moves on. The one to watch will be Pablo Sandoval and how he does on a minor league contract without the safty net of being on the Giants underneath him
Ouch! I forgot about Panda. Having both those guys on the same roster would just be brutal
If they both hit well enough to make the team they’ll probably be mostly PH. Snit doesn’t rest starters often; so if they’re hitting, I see no major issues. If they don’t hit they won’t be on the team.
Wish the cubs would’ve re-signed him.
Signing Kipnis on a minor league deal could be a very good thing. If he can make the team out if spring training then Kipnis could very well be a versatile piece off the bench.
The Braves apparently believe in Riley, because there has been no trade talk, and if he bombs this year, his trade value plummets. I like him, but the bat speed is lacking, which is the main reason he whiffs so much. I’ll be surprised (pleasantly) if he’s still in baseball 5 years from now, to be honest. He just doesn’t look like a major league hitter to me.
A good hitting coach can fix his timing and any mechanics out of sync. Our hitting coach was the best and had soooo many different drills and games we would play during practice getting rewarded for hitting up the middle and opposite field. He needs to focus on hitting the back net in the cage.
Really hoping the bench won’t be what we see so far. There’s still time, but stronger bench bats must be in the thinking. Even Chipper’s coaching can’t help the situation as it now stands.