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.