Jason Kipnis "absolutely" open to an extension with the Indians this spring

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Tribe will have the chance to lockup its best player with a long-term deal this spring.

Jason Kipnis is "absolutely" open to a contract extension with the Indians, and talks between the two sides about a possible long-term deal will probably begin when players report for spring training next month. Kipnis does not want contract discussions to be ongoing during the season though, so if nothing is worked out before Opening Day, it will likely be months before the the topic is raised again.

Kipnis was the Tribe's best player in 2013, when he posted a .284/.366/.452 line (good for an OPS+ of 133) and stole 30 bases in 37 attempts. He is also projected to be their best player again in 2014. Kipnis entering his final season of pre-arbitration eligibility, meaning the team isn't obligated to pay him anything more than the league minimum (~$550,000). From 2015 to 2017 he will be eligible for arbitration, at which point his salary will escalate quickly (dependent of course on his production and health). Kipnis will be 30 years old at the end of the 2017 season, at which point (if he hasn't agreed to an extension) he'll become a free agent.

More on Jason Kipnis

A couple weeks ago I compiled a list of players who signed extensions recently when they were the same distance from free agency as Kipnis is now. You can find that list of players, the deals they signed, and my assessment of them as comparison points for Kipnis in the sidebar to the right. If you just want the final conclusion I came to, a 5-year deal (2014-2018) for $37 million with a team option for $13 million in 2019 is about what I think it would take to get something done. That would keep him under team control for two additional years, through his age-32 season.

I'd be in favor of such a deal, because the Indians will need their good players to stay good and their prospects to pan out if they're going to be a consistent contender, so they might as well gamble on them. If Kipnis falls apart or is badly injured, the team takes a loss, but if he continues to improve, or just continues to put up season like he did in 2013, they save a bundle, and get to keep him longer. I wanted them to sign him to an extension a year ago, when $40 million might have been enough to keep him through 2019, instead of the $50 million I think it would take now. If he's an All-Star again in 2014, $50 million won't be enough.

Either way, Kipnis is set to be an Indian for the next four years, so this isn't as pressing as potentially working out an extension with Justin Masterson, but that's a separate issue, and I think the Tribe is better off if they secure Kipnis now.

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