Hot Stove Speculating: Could the Toronto Blue Jays Pursue Jason Kipnis Trade with Cleveland?
Maroon Alert! Or even vermilion!
Only two cups into Sunday’s morning coffee and after another excellent Live & Interactive post from Jays From the Couch, a seemingly innocuous tweet spread rather quickly through Blue Jays and Cleveland twitter on a speculative (that’s the key word, here) trade between the two teams.
A nice trade with Toronto. https://t.co/Pamc5P6e76
— Rafa Nieves (@mlb_agent) October 29, 2017
The tweet came in response to the following from MLB Trade Rumors:
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) October 28, 2017
Interesting! While the Blue Jays have an excellent second baseman in Devon Travis, he’s played just 213 games over three MLB seasons. As a result the Blue Jays have had to cobble together middle infields with Ryan Goins receiving full-time play, Darwin Barney, Rob Refsnyder and a very aggressively promoted Richard Urena. This practice is unsustainable for a competitive team, and the Blue Jays should be looking for a solution that provides some stability to second base.
As for the source, Rafa Nieves isn’t exactly a nobody, even if he’s not a household name. He is Vice President of the baseball agency at the Wasserman Group, a growing baseball agency and he has that much-trusted blue check mark next to his name on the Twitter. As an aside, the poll has an overwhelmingly strong support of trading Kipnis in the offseason, 49% at the time of this writing.
But on to the player of question, here. Jason Kipnis was recently forced to play CF with the Cleveland Indians’ recent and short-lived run into the playoffs, with Tito Francona insisting on getting Jose Ramirez and Giovanny Urshela (?) into the lineup, moving Kipnis into the outfield. Urshela, as a result, went 2-for-12 with an RBI and six strikeouts in the series. If Francona doesn’t push his glove-first third baseman into the fold every game in the ALDS, we’re not having this conversation right now.
Somehow, based on the replies to the MLBTR tweet, Kipnis has been saddled with much of the blame for their 2018 fall, and there’s rumours of clubhouse issues as a result. Baseball players are so dramatic.
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Kipnis had a breakout season in 2016, slugging .414 on route to 23 HR and 82 RBI. He took a step back in 2017, though, but the emergence of Jose Ramirez and the addition of Blue Jays’ fan favourite Edwin Encarnacion made up for his drop off in production. Prior to missing 70 games to start the 2017 season, he’s been on the field a fair amount in his MLB career, playing 152, 149, 129, 141 and 156 games in each season prior since becoming a full-time player, and a pretty good one at that.
The massive caveat to Kipnis right now was his injury-plagued 2017 season, where DL stints ranged from shoulder issues throughout the spring, keeping him off the field until late April, to hamstring issues throughout the summer. By the fall, though, Kipnis was healthy enough to get time playing CF in the playoffs, so hopefully those issues are behind him.
Could Kipnis Fit in with the Blue Jays?
It’s always easy to speculate on offseason deals, and as baseball fans, sometimes we need them to make it through the long winter. However unlikely a trade for Jason Kipnis might be, it does make some sense for the Blue Jays on paper. Kipnis, if he’s over his 2017 injury woes, provides decent defense at second base, does so hitting well-above average for the season, and brings a lefty bat to a somewhat unbalanced offense.
But baseball players aren’t free, and the cost of acquiring Kipnis may be above what the Jays are willing to spend in personnel – which they’ve shown they are extremely reluctant to do. At first thought, Cleveland might want to bolster their pitching staff or outfield with some of Toronto’s young talent. Does that make sense with this front office? Maybe not.
There’s also the question of money. Kipnis is owed $13,500,00 in 2018, $14,500,000 in 2019, and has a club option in 2020 for $16,500,000. Unless Cleveland pitches in a significant amount of cash or take one of Toronto’s overpaid veterans back in the deal – this seems very unlike the way this club functions.
Overall, while a nice fit, a possible trade between the two seems very unlikely. Devon Travis may be healthy in 2018, and Tulowitzki should see more games than he did in 2017. Richard Urena is close, and the team hasn’t been shy about trusting Ryan Goins. With Logan Warmoth, Kevin Smith and Bo Bichette steadily rising through the farm system, there looks to be no dearth of talent for middle infield in the Jays system. If anything, Kipnis could serve as a reliable bridge to these talents, but the Jays could use $30,000,000 over the next two years to address other issues on the roster.
*Article Photo courtesy of DaveMe Images. Prints available for purchase.
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