Just four years ago, the New York Mets had Daniel Murphy starting at second base, with Justin Turner fighting for playing time at second and third. Since then, Murphy and Turner have evolved into two of the best infielders in the league but with different teams, leaving the Mets with Gavin Cecchini as the projected starting second baseman for next season following Neil Walker’s trade at the deadline.
The last thing the Mets need following an abysmal 2017 season is to consider what could have been, and the best way for them to do so is to find a second baseman that can provide a much greater threat on offense than Cecchini, who is not quite ready to start at the major league level. Luckily, the Cleveland Indians’ Jason Kipnis seems to be ripe for the taking.
There was a time when Kipnis was considered in the same elite category that both Murphy and Turner currently occupy. During his second full season in the majors in 2013, Kipnis hit .284 with 17 HRs and 84 RBIs, was named to the American League All-Star team, and received votes for AL MVP. He had another solid season in 2015, posting a .303 average and being named to his second All-Star team.
Unfortunately, Kipnis fell out of favor with the Indians last season, due mainly to the emergence of Jose Ramirez. Kipnis started the season on the disabled list, and when he returned from injury, the Indians refused to move Ramirez out of the starting second base spot because of how productive he had been.
Thus, Kipnis was forced to move to center field as an injury replacement to get any regular playing time. However, even when he did play, his offensive production was nowhere near what it has been in recent years: his .231 average and .291 on-base percentage were both career lows by wide margins.
Last season’s failures probably were an indication more of a lack of confidence than a decline in ability. Kipnis missed almost half the season with various injuries, and lost his starting second base job in the process. A permanent home with a different team might just be all he needs to return to All-Star form.
The Indians have a plan in center field with Bradley Zimmer, so it would seem the team has no further need for Kipnis, especially given his struggles last season. This is nothing but good news for the Mets, a team that definitely has a need for a player like Kipnis.
Kipnis provides a rare combination of power and speed unseen from Mets second basemen in recent years. He only tallied six steals last season, but has recorded at least 15 in each of his first five full seasons, including 31 in 2012 and 30 in 2013. This ability to steal bases, combined with his ability to collect extra-base hits, would be a wonderful addition to a lineup that has struggled in recent years to get runners into scoring position.
The Mets will probably still have to pay a hefty price to trade for Kipnis, even if his value has deteriorated significantly. The Indians will likely seek a young arm such as Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo, as well as a prospect from the Mets, a price that seems high given the Mets’ need for pitching depth but a small price to pay for the potential production that Kipnis can provide to the second base position.
Murphy and Turner are painful reminders to the Mets of how poor the team’s recent decisions regarding second basemen have been. Kipnis could be the player to rid them of their woes, and there is no reason why the Mets shouldn’t at least give him a chance, because he might make the most of that chance somewhere else.
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