Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Indians sign All-Star Jason Kipnis to long-term deal

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1aThe Cleveland Indians announced this morning that they signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year contract extension through the 2019 season worth $52.5 million, with a club option for 2020. The deal, according to Jordan Bastian, is worth $52.5 million, and if the Indians nab that seventh-year option, it will wrap up Kipnis through three years of free agency.

That’s moderately shocking.

Bastian and several others reported the news earlier this morning, and throngs of Indians fans on twitter and across Indians message boards and in radio drive time were treated to the added bonus of the signing. It certainly wasn’t a surprise in the grand scheme of things. Most had speculated that the Indians would pull of this deal when they came home for several weeks, and I had even mentioned the deal almost a month ago, complete with the parameters for a potential deal.

Obviously the groundwork had been laid out by the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, who built similar deals for similar players. Kipnis, who is likely a higher value player than both, signed a deal very similar to Matt Carpenter’s six-year deal with the Cardinals, complete with a seventh year added to the team in the form of a team option.

Just a great move by the Indians, who have continued to show their commitment to building a winner since the firing of Manny Acta in September of 2012.

Enter Terry Francona, and if that sound like ‘Enter the Dragon,’ that’s exactly what I meant.

You can argue that Jason Kipnis is a top five second baseman in the league right now. Think about this: he led the Indians runs, hits, RBI and steals, and was top ten in walks and steals in the league. What the Indians are banking on for Kipnis is his tremendous upside.

When Kipnis was a minor leaguer, his M.O. was his ability to literally carry a team, as he did with the Indians this past June when he was named player of the month. What did he do to earn that award? He hit .419, with 12 doubles, a triple, four homers and 25 RBI. He also scored 17 runs, stole nine bases, and walked 20 times, vs. only 22 K’s, in only 27 ballgames.

Think about that extended over a longer time period. No, I don’t think he’s going to hit .419, but Kipnis and his streaks are becoming legendary, and they started back in the minors, as I mentioned before.

Look at his 2010 season, when he accelerated from the High A Kinston Indians all the way to Columbus. With the KTribe, who play in the Carolina League, a notorious pitchers league, his slash line was .300/.387/.478, with six homers and 31 RBI. He earned a quick promotion to Akron, and he upped his game to .311/.385/.502, with 10 homers and 43 RBI. The Indians then rewarded Kipnis with a trip to Columbus, to play in the Governor’s Cup. What did he do? He hit for the cycle in the culminating game, going 4-for-5 overall.

He then made quick work of Columbus in 2011, with a slash of .280/.362/.484, and 12 homers, before getting the call-up to Cleveland.

He had been playing second base for 1 1/2 years at the time of the call-up.

That’s the player that the Indians were expecting, and have gotten, and while he’s been a really good major leaguer, there’s a lot in the tank of this burgeoning superstar. As the Indians craft a team around him, less pressure to carry will bring out the final level of his growth, and now they have him at a bargain.

With the Kipnis signing, the Indians now have 16 players currently under Team Control through 2016, and there will likely be more signings before it’s all said and done. Danny Salazar is a top candidate, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Indians wrap him up, and potentially Corey Kluber before it’s all said and done.

For now, Jason Kipnis will be a Cleveland Indians’ star through the 2020 season, and that’s reason enough to smile, as if opening day wasn’t enough.

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