Chicago Cubs

Cubs' Jason Kipnis doesn't lack confidence

Veteran player battles to fill vacancy at 2nd base; young Hoerner also in contention

Former Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is in the Cubs' spring training camp after signing a minor league deal with the team.
Former Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is in the Cubs' spring training camp after signing a minor league deal with the team.

For now, most of the faces remain the same.

If the Cubs are over the luxury-tax threshold during the season, or if they fall out of contention in the National League Central, that could change and a player or two could be traded.

No matter what happens, there will be a new look at second base this year.

With Ben Zobrist reportedly planning to sit out the season and Javy Báez now playing shortstop full time, the Cubs went outside for their likely replacement.

Jason Kipnis is in camp on a minor league contract, and the veteran second baseman will earn $1 million if he makes the major league roster.

Confidence is not a problem.

“I think I can bring a lot,” said Kipnis, who spent his first nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians. “There’s the veteran side to me that’s been around. I’ve seen things, know how to handle things. I’m not shying away from competition. I’m not shying away from whoever’s across the line against us.”

A two-time All-Star, the 32-year-old Kipnis is a natural fit with the Cubs. Not only did he play high school baseball at Glenbrook North, but there is an opening at second base.

“It made sense,” he said. “It really did.”

Kipnis’ numbers have slipped the past three seasons as he has battled injuries, but he is a career .261/.333/.417 hitter with 123 home runs and 529 RBIs over 1,121 games with Cleveland.

In the 2016 World Series against the Cubs, Kipnis was 9 for 31 (.290) with two homers and four RBIs.

A healthy Kipnis is at or near the top of the depth chart about three weeks before the regular season opens, but there is plenty of competition.

David Bote is a natural third baseman, but he played 50 games at second last season. Daniel Descalso played 45 games at second base in 2019, but he had an awful debut with the Cubs (.173/.271/.250) and is likely a utility player at best this year.

Nico Hoerner is an interesting candidate at second. The Cubs’ first-round draft pick in 2018 (No. 24 overall), Hoerner was at Double-A Tennessee last season and just rounding back into form after missing more than two months with a fractured left wrist.

When Báez went down in September with a fractured finger, Hoerner made the jump to the majors and slashed .282/.305/.436 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 20 games.

Hoerner played 17 games at shortstop but did make one start at second base.

If the Cubs decide to go with Kipnis or Bote or a combination at second and Hoerner opens the season at Triple-A Iowa, the 22-year-old infielder will wait for another chance.

“Being on second base, that’s something I could do pretty well,” Hoerner said. “At the same time, I know I’m a long way from my highest potential, and there’s a lot of development that needs to happen. If you get too caught up in numbers in spring training, it’s going to be a pretty tough way to start your year mentally.

“I’m just getting myself ready for a full professional season and really prioritizing that. Obviously, I want to be at the major league level, and I think I can help this team in a lot of different ways.”

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