Jason Kipnis on Cleveland: “It sucks. It’s been an absolute joy to play here.”

Kipnis knows he could be on a different team next season

James Rapien
September 18, 2019 - 7:22 pm

CLEVELAND, OH – Jason Kipnis sat down in front of the media on Wednesday with his right hand in a removable cast and a shirt that read ‘Cleveland is the Future.’

The 32-year-old second baseman was once considered a big part of that future. Now, the veteran isn’t sure where he’ll be playing next year.

Kipnis knows the Indians aren’t going to pick up his $16.5 million option for the 2020 season. He’s also well aware that his production isn’t what it once was, which means he could end up playing for another team.

Kipnis’ eighth full season with the Indians ended with a broken hamate bone in his right hand. His last hit in a Cleveland uniform might’ve been the double that bounced off of the Progressive Field wall.

The two-time All-Star posted a .245 batting average with 17 home runs and 65 RBI in 121 games this season.

This certainly isn’t the way he hoped this year would end.

“It’s not the ride off into the sunset you hope for as a player when you’ve been with a team for a long time,” Kipnis said. “Overall this season, it was a grind again. But from where we started, I’m proud of the way that I didn’t pack it in or give up. I kept competing and I refused to be a non-factor this year.”

Kipnis certainly did show flashes of his old self this season. He posted a .385 batting average with four home runs and 15 RBI during a 14 game stretch in June.

“I knew it was my last year and I knew this team needed me to step up,” he said. “I don’t know if being an All-Star early on in the career or having these hot streaks or that May, I held myself and I know fans kind of hold me to that standard of ‘well why don’t you do that all the time?’ If I could I would, trust me. It’s a tough game. I was just very happy that I kept at it. And I had a lot of good reasons to in this organization.”

The Future

Kipnis loves Cleveland. Even though his future is in doubt, he’d be open to returning to the Indians next season.

“If Cleveland thinks that’s something that we can agree on a number, I don’t think it would be too hard to get something done,” Kipnis said. "But that’s also in their hands now. I’ve always loved playing here. I’ve always said that. But they by no means have to. If they feel the need to go in a different direction, that’s more than OK, too. That’s their job.”

Kipnis is self-aware. He knows middle infielders that are past their prime aren’t going to get big money on the open market. He knows he’s a role player at this stage of his career.

I have plenty of good years of good baseball left in me,” Kipnis said. “I can move around positions. I can do a lot of things. So I think I can offer something to a bunch of teams. In my case, I don’t think the price is going to be too hard to negotiate.”

Kipnis is a leader in the Indians’ clubhouse, which is something that organically happened over the years. He’s always willing to talk to the media, even after a tough loss and helps young guys when they’re going through slumps and veterans like Carlos Carrasco, whose leukemia diagnosis gave the team a new perspective. 

Leaving Cleveland

Kipnis made it clear that he doesn’t want to leave Cleveland. It admitted the idea of leaving was ‘scary,’ but that he’s also been fortunate to spend his entire career with the Indians.

“It sucks. There’s no need to sugarcoat it,” he said. “It just sucks, because it’s just been that much fun of a trip for me. I have very few regrets about the last eight years. It’s been an absolute joy to play here.”

There’s a chance he could return to the team next year on a short-term contract. If the Indians decide to go in another direction, then it’s just another example of their retooling on the fly. The organization is attempting to get younger, while winning and competing at a high level.

It’s worked so far, as they’re only a half game behind Tampa Bay in a tight American League wild card race.

Kipnis will always be remembered in Cleveland. He sat in front of the media proud of what he had accomplished in his Indians’ career, but also disappointed at how it ended.

“One of the most unfortunate parts of this is that I don’t get to try to finish what I started eight years ago with a bunch of guys, the mission,” he said. “I think we turned around a franchise. I think we turned around an organization. We raised the bar here. Sometimes, I fell short of the high standards we set here and I’m OK with that, because I’m proud that there are higher standards here.

“This is a very classy organization, viewed that way throughout the league. Part of me likes to think I played a part in that. But definitely proud of the three straight division titles, without telling what’s going to happen here down the stretch, the World Series run, the group of guys I got to play with throughout all that. Some of the teams we’ve had, the connection we’ve had in the community.”