Jason Kipnis extension looks like a great move for the Indians

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at similar second basemen of the last 50 years makes Kipnis' extension look like a great move for the Indians.

The 6-year extension the Indians have signed Jason Kipnis too is a clear sign that they view him as an All-Star caliber player who will maintain his production in the coming years. Here's the rundown on how Kipnis is being paid each of the next 6 (or 7) years:

  • $1 million signing bonus
  • 2014: $2 million
  • 2015: $4 million
  • 2016: $6 million
  • 2017: $9 million
  • 2018: $13.5 million
  • 2019: $14.5 million
  • 2020: $16.5 million or $2.5 million buyout
That adds up to $52.5 million in guaranteed money (for 6 years), with the option potentially bringing it up to $66.5 million for 7 years. He was already signed for ~$550,000, so in addition to the signing bonus, he's also picking up a nice raise foe 2014. 2015, 2016, and 2017 would have been his arbitration years. Based on payments given out to other players in recent years, If Kipnis continued to play the way he did in 2013, I think his three arbitration years would have cost the Indians $30 million or so, which means this deal saves the team ~$10 through 2017.

Over the last 50 years, Kipnis is one of just 16 second baseman who posted at least 9 WAR (Baseball-Reference) in the age-24 to -26 seasons, while also putting up an OPS+ of 110 or better (Kipnis put up 10.9 and a 118). Here are the 15 other players, with their WAR and OPS+ for those three season, and for the next four seasons (the ones the Indians already had Kipnis under team control for):

Player WAR (24-26) OPS (24-26) WAR (27-30) OPS+ (27-30)
Bobby Grich 22.9 127 16.9 126
Ryne Sandberg 17.7 123 20.2 124
Lou Whitaker 15.9 119 16.8 113
Dustin Pedroia 15.7 118 19.6** 121
Edgardo Alfonso 15.1 126 7.4 101
Roberto Alomar 15.0 131 15.1 119
Pete Rose 14.4 121 21.9 141
Chuck Knoblauch 14.3 114 21.6 118
Willie Randolph 14.2 111 13.3 104
Marcus Giles 11.5 118 4.5 93
Ian Kinsler 10.6 116 19.4 108
Carlos Baerga 10.4 117 -1.3 76
Rod Carew 9.9 119 29.1 150
Chase Utley 9.8 115 32.3 135
Martin Prado 9.5 118 10.0** 101

**Pedroia and Prado have just begun their age-30 season, so their numbers are for ages 27 to 29.

All 15 of those players had at least 1745 plate appearances from age 27 to 30, 13 of the 15 had 2,000+. Of the 15, 3 become much better hitters in the second phase, 7 didn't see much change in their hitting, and 5 declined significantly. Even with some of them declining as hitters, 12 of the 15 were comfortably above-average players (3+ WAR per year), 9 of them averaged All-Star production (, and Carew and Utley were both routinely MVP-caliber players in those years (it's worth noting that those two were not among the most impressive of the bunch from 24 to 26, so there's certainly room for Kipnis to still get better).

Covering the arbitration years for the price they did was a no-brainer for the Indians. The small risk that Kipnis is badly injured is far outweighed by the ~$10 million they saved. Of course, Kipnis wouldn't have agreed to the deal if that's all it was, he wanted the additional security of being paid bigger dollars in the following years. The Indians are also paying Kipnis a guaranteed $30 million for his age 31 and 32 seasons ($13.5M + $14.5M + 2.0M for the buyout).

How might those years play out?

We don't yet know how Pedroia and Prado will do, but here are the others:

Player WAR (31-32) OPS+ (31-32)
Ryne Sandberg 14.8 142
Rod Carew 14.6 159
Pete Rose 14.3 136
Roberto Alomar 13.0 127
Bobby Grich 9.6 137
Chase Utley 9.6 117
Lou Whitaker 8.8 130
WIllie Randolph 8.7 113
Ian Kinsler 4.5** 105
Chuck Knoblauch 1.2 87
Edgardo Alfonso -.17 60

**Kinsler just begun his age-32, so those figures are for age-31 only.

6 of them hit better in those years than they had from 27-30, which is quite surprising. 9 of them were above-average hitters and still playing at something like an All-Star level. Sandberg, Carew, and Rose were still among the very best players in the game. On the opposite end, the bottom had fallen out for Knoblauch and Alfonso, and also for Baerga and Giles, who didn't even play in MLB at the of 31 and 32.

If Kipnis is putting up 3 WAR a year, he'll be well worth the final two guaranteed years of the deal, and 8 of the 15 players cleared that mark (they all cleared more than 4 WAR a year, while Kinsler is well on his way, and Pedroia and Prado can both still join them. Pretty good odds, I'd say.

If Kipnis is still above average in 2019, the Indians will likely exercise the option on him. 12 of the 5 players in the original list have reached their age-33 season. 7 of them (Alomar, Whitaker, Rose, Grich, Sandberg, Utley, and Carew) posted 2.6 WAR or better in their age-33 season. Alomar was an MVP candidate that year, while Rose was still putting up All-Star numbers. There's a solid chance the team option will look good when the time arrives.

$10 million in saving between now and 2017, what seems like a better than 50/50 chance that the two additional years and the team option work out well for the Indians too. There's a lot to like about this extension for Tribe fans.

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