The Cubs have been showing interest in several veteran second baseman throughout the winter, among them former Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. And now they are officially adding the Northbrook native who grew up a Cubs fan — you probably didn’t know that because they didn’t mention it during the World Series every five minutes — on a minor-league deal that includes a spring training invite. A career .261 hitter with a .750 OPS and 103 wRC+, the 32-year-old has struggled with injuries and performance over the past three seasons.
Though he’s far from a sure bet to make the roster, the Cubs’ pursuit of Kipnis sheds a little doubt on the possibility that Nico Hoerner will break camp with the big club. Despite a strong showing in September, Hoerner doesn’t have much experience above A-ball and the Cubs want to see him polish his plate approach with two strikes. Hoerner himself has said he’s more focused on his development than on a starting role, almost certainly because the Cubs have told him that’s the deal.
There’s a lot of baseball to be played, however, and the rookie could yet force his way onto the 26-man roster this spring. But if the Cubs have their druthers, or so I’m theorizing, Kipnis or another one of the more seasoned players will take the reins and allow the club to keep Hoerner at Iowa. They believe he’s got the skillset to be a leadoff hitter in the future, he just needs time to further mature into that role.
Again, nothing is set and this should be one of the more interesting position battles taking place in Mesa over the next several weeks.
Update: Kipnis has passed his physical and the deal is in place. He’ll be able to earn $1 million with potential for additional incentives if he makes the 26-man roster.
Jason Kipnis to Cubs. Minors deal for the Glenbrook North product. 1M plus incentives.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 11, 2020