Could the Indians and Jason Kipnis Agree on a Multi-Year Extension?
With all of the attention focused on the Indians current arbitration situation involving Justin Masterson and, to a lesser extent, Michael Brantley, it’s understandable that the contract situations of many other players have been put on the back burner for the time being. However, one situation in particular has caused a stir among Tribe fans and for good reason.
If you didn’t already know, I’m talking about Jason Kipnis, the Indians all-star second baseman that is teetering on becoming a full-fledged super star at the big league level. After a spectacular 2013 season that saw him hit .284/.366/.452 with 17 home runs and 84 RBI. All of that helped translate to a 133 OPS+ and cemented his status as the Indians best overall player. But of course, like with any great player on the payroll of a “small market” team, money is going to become an issue sooner rather than later.
Jason Kipnis is entering into his final year of pre-arbitration eligibility in 2014. That means that the Indians don;t have to pay him any more than the bare minimum required by them under the collective bargaining agreement. In 2013, Kipnis made $509,400. That’s chump change compared to what some other all-star caliber players. However, following this season things will get interesting as he will be eligible for arbitration. And we know how much the Indians hate going to arbitration.
That’s why for their sake, signing Jason Kipnis to an extension now would appear to be beneficial. By coming to terms in the present, the Indians could avoid what will certainly be a significant pay increase. If the Indians should be unlucky enough to go to arbitration they will be hard pressed to give a story that will be more compelling than the one Kipnis can present. In all honesty, how do you lessen the accomplishments of what could be a multiple time all-star with the type of number Kipnis is capable of putting up? You can’t and to think that an arbitrator wouldn’t side with Kipnis is just preposterous.
Of course, there is also a benefit here for Kipnis as well. While he will be arbitration eligible following the 2014 season, there is no guarantee that he will receive a monumental pay increase each and every year. In 2015 it is almost a certainty based on his historic performance and what is sure to be another solid year, but what about 2016 and 2017? What if he gets hurt? What if the past two seasons were a fluke? He is still three years away from free agency and the ultimate payday. For that reason it is in Kipnis’ best interests to consider a multi-year extension in order to secure himself of a bright financial future.
But what would such a deal look like? Just how many years and how much money are we talking in order to lock Jason Kipnis for years to come?
Well for starters, any possible extension is going to include this season as well as his three years of arbitration eligibility. Already that puts us at a four-year deal. It also stands to reason that the Indians would also want to include at least the first and possibly even his second year of free agent eligibility. That now puts us up to a five or six-year extension that would run through Kipnis’ age 32 season. It is possible though that Kipnis would not want to be hitting free agency prior to his age 33 season. For that reason, the final year of such an extension would probably be an option controlled by the club or mutually between both sides. So five years with an option for a sixth would seem to be a reasonable agreement for both sides.
However, that’s not taking into account the monetary value of the extension. That’s where things get tricky. This extension could have been done for a lot less following the 2012 season. Now thanks to his 2013 performance, the price tag to keep him in Cleveland is probably a lot more expensive.
At $8-million per year that puts a potential five-year extension in the $40-million dollar range. It stands to reason that Kipnis’ side would demand significantly more than $8-million in the final years of the deal when he should have multiple all-star game appearances and established himself as one of the elite talents in the game. Maybe they’re able to adjust the figures per year and still come up with that $40-million figure, or perhaps they just give him more on the back-end to compensate for those lost years of free agency. Perhaps they come out to $50-million total where he earns $16-million in years one and two, $21-million in years three and four, and then $13-million in year five. They could then load that final option year in the range of $14-$15-million.
Is that enough to get the job done? Perhaps. At least as of today. If Jason Kipnis turns in a 2014 season that is similar or even better than his 2013 season, then there is a very real possibility that $50 million might not be enough. In that situation it is a lot harder to imagine the Indians coming to agreement with their best player. Can they afford to pay one player in excess of $10-$12-million dollars a year over a five-year period? It’s doubtful. If they weren’t willing to hand over big dollar amounts for free agents of years past, what makes this situation any different?
All I know is that if Jason Kipnis is willing to talk about a possible extension, then the Indians should do everything in their power to get it down right now. Yes, it is a calculated risk that could come back to bite them, but not taking action could be equally as harmful to the long-term goals of the team.