The Cleveland Indians Need to Figure Out a Plan for Jason Kipnis

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We’re still waiting for the Cleveland Indians to do anything of substance this offseason. Outside of dishing out minor league deals which barely move the needle, news around the team is less about who it’s going after and more about who it’s no longer interested in moving.

It seems we’ve received another update in that regard. Despite his name receiving a decent amount of buzz in the rumor mill, Jason Kipnis might no longer be someone Cleveland is looking to trade. Reports say the New York Mets, who were supposedly trying to make a deal for Kipnis, are now getting the vibe the Indians aren’t too keen on moving him anymore.

For now, it would seem like he’ll remain with Cleveland heading into next season.

OK, great. Now what?

By that, I mean to ask just what exactly the plan is for Kipnis. As last season ended, the Indians were desperately trying to find a spot in the field for the two-time All-Star, and not much has changed since. With that said, if Cleveland does indeed plan on keeping Kipnis, it needs to figure out just what exactly it wants to do with him in 2018.

Despite being one of the long-tenured members of the team, Kipnis became a square peg in a round hole midway through last season. While he was sidelined with various injuries, then-third baseman Jose Ramirez took over for him at second. Within just a few games, it was clear he was a much better fit.

Not wanting to throw anything off, the Indians left Ramirez at second and tried to figure out where they could put Kipnis. They landed on center field, mostly due to the fact they needed a replacement for injured rookie Bradley Zimmer.

The results were…fine. Kipnis isn’t an ideal fit in the outfield, proving to be serviceable at best. He wasn’t a severe liability, but he also didn’t do anything to convince Cleveland he could be comfortably slotted there moving forward.

Heading into 2018, Ramirez is still penciled in at second. Additionally, Zimmer should be healthy and ready to take back his spot in center. With that in mind, just where exactly is the Tribe going to put Kipnis if the urge to move him has indeed died down?

Odds are strong Cleveland finds a spot for him based not on how well he plays a position, but how little of a liability he’d be.

Thanks to Carlos Santana‘s departure to the Philadelphia Phillies, there’s an opening at first base. That said, the initial rumor is the Indians may be looking to give outfielder Michael Brantley a try there. Since this isn’t even remotely ideal, look for the Indians to prioritize finding an answer at first via trade or free agency.

If Cleveland really is invested in the Brantley first base experiment, it’d leave an opening in left field for Kipnis. The team could take this route, considering right field is likely a platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer.

Again, though, Kipnis is nobody’s idea of a reliable outfielder. He simply doesn’t have the ideal arm-strength needed at this position. While he isn’t any sort of worst-case scenario, the Tribe would be better off leaning on someone else.

Of course, this just brings us back to the main issue. The ideal place to put him on the field is already occupied. Placing him anywhere else produces a solid number of red flags.

Just to cover every base, there remains a chance the Indians are trying to con the Mets or any other team into ponying up more by saying Kipnis is no longer available. As free agent targets start getting snatched up, there’s always the chance a desperate club in need of a fix at second base might come back to Cleveland with a lopsided offer it can’t turn down.

For now, though, we’re left to assume the Indians intend on having Kipnis in the clubhouse next year.

If this is indeed the plan, they better already be outlining ideas when it comes to how exactly they’re going to use him. Right now, Kipnis’ status remains the same – a talented player without a home on the field.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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