Kipnis Or The Chiz…Which One Would You Part With?

With the Indians having already addressed their fifth starter spot in a quick, smart trade for veteran Derek Lowe, the focus will now shift to the badly needed right-handed bat. Letting CF Grady Sizemore walk into free agency frees up a $9 million hole in the payroll if you believe the Indians will indeed spend that. I do.

GM Chris Antonetti has already added $5 million extra that wasn’t expected with the acquisition of Lowe. He also knows that this division is still very winnable. All he has to do is look at how his completely banged up Indians team lead the Central into August, despite the fact that they spent huge chunks of time without three of their best players, then watched as one of their key kids missed most of the stretch run.

Antonetti showed last year that he knows he is in the middle of a window with his core players where he can compete for a playoff spot and go deeper. Therefore, he has been aggressive in taking steps to improve his team for the now, and not just for the future. 

Yes, he caught a ton of flack for the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, but it was mostly classic Cleveland complaining. For years, we have wanted the team to go out and get a big name to improve the club instead of trading the likes of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez for prospects. Antonetti actually did that last year, and people were outraged that we would deal our top two pitching prospects.

You can’t have it both ways. You have to strike while the iron is hot sometimes, and Antonetti took that chance when he snagged Ubaldo. The jury will be out on that deal as we see how Jimenez responds this season with the Tribe as well as the maturation of Alex White and Drew Pomeranz in Colorado.

In the meantime, the Indians still have a gigantic need for a right-handed, middle of the order, bat in the Nelson Cruz/Adrian Beltre mold. With their financial constraints, signing a free agent is probably not in the cards, unless its of the one year variety on a guy they’d have to take a chance on. Kind of like someone they just let walk in those same circumstances; Sizemore. The reality is that for Antonetti to acquire that impact bat, its going to have to come through a trade.

Which brings us to what the Indians would have to give up to get such a legitimate stick.

With White and Pomeranz now gone, and top position prospects such as Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall now at the major league level, the Indians AA and AAA top tier depth is not very sought after. Of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects of 2011, only Chisenhall (#25) and Kipnis (#54) were ranked in terms of position players. Next on the Tribe’s list are the likes of Class A’s LeVon Washington, Tony Wolters, and the chronically injured and under-achieving Nick Weglarz.

Weglarz is actually a guy who should be that  power outfielder that the team could be bringing up to play everyday. His failings, coupled with the lackluster play of 1B Matt LaPorta, have put the Indians in this predicament.

I believe Antonetti is going to be faced with the prospect of needing to trade one of his key future pieces, either Kipnis or Chisenhall, to get that middle of the order right-handed run producer. I don’t want to trade either, but you have to give something to get something.

To me, if you must deal one, Chisenhall would be the guy.

While The Chiz showed some some promise at last year at the plate, he also struggled mightily at times. He was kind of “just there” when the Indians were driving towards a division title. Defensively, he is still a work in progress. While the Indians made a second surge in late July, it was when Jack Hannahan regained the third base job from Chiz.

On the other hand, Kipnis’s call-up was greeted with huge fanfare and he disappoint. From his first hit – a walk-off single against the Angels – on, Kipnis became a key cog in the Indians offense. He was quickly moved into the two-hole and fit in perfectly. He hit five homers in seven games in his just his second and third weeks in the majors and was only derailed by an oblique injury which robbed him (and the Indians) of three key weeks where the team floundered.

Kipnis has that Dustin Pedroia thing going on. He is fiery and plays extremely hard. Maybe Chisenhall will show more of that, but as of right now, if you told me I could keep just one of these two, I’m sticking with Kipnis, hitting him second and playing second every day.

Don’t be stunned if one of these two kids is the centerpiece of a deal that would bring a right-handed bat that could play first, corner OF, or even third (if Chisenhall is indeed the guy). I’d add Lonnie to a deal if it could net the Indians what they need. You can roll with another year of a Hannahan/Jason Donald type platoon (although Jackie raked against lefties last year).


  • Buckit

    The Chiz has an cannon, but it still is a no-brainer: Keep Kipnis

  • Michael Cuddyer, anyone?

  • Kevin

    Agree TD… who would your targets be tho??

  • @jogantt

    Solid take.

  • Ghost To Most

    At the plate, Chiz looked like a fish out of water for most of the season. I think he probably needed some more time at AAA. Defensively he impressed me, I thought he was quite good. He has a great swing, and if he figures out how to hit big league pitching, he could be something special. But, he’s got a ways to go.

    Kipnis hit well but struggled defensively late, I do think that hamstring injury had a lot to do with it.

    I agree with TD when he says that Kipnis has a chance to be our Dustin Pedroia. He’s got a great swing, good discipline at the plate, can hit the ball to the opposite field, etc.

    Kipnis is the better player, right now, Lonnie might have a higher ceiling. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to deal one of them, I think I would move Lonnie because I think he might have more trade value. Kipnis is a guy, I think, who can play at an All Star level right now, where Lonnie might be 2 years away.

    If we’re going all in for 2012-13, trying to win now, I think Kipnis is the guy to hang onto. But obviously I wouldnt move Lonnie unless we were getting something substantial in return.

  • Josh

    If I have to choose one I’ll go with Chiz, but it better be one hell of a right handed bat we are getting back, who is under team control for at least two or three years.

    Also Weglarz is a lefty bat. But I agree his stalled development has really hurt our outfield talent. He looked like a potential stud for a few years there.

  • NJ

    Indian fans don’t want to read this, but the right guy to deal is Asdrubal. His value will probably never be higher and with all our ground ball pitchers a good defensive SS will be that much more valueable.

  • Sloozeronymous

    Agree with all of the above — Kipnis is the guy to keep for now provided we get a substantial return on Chiz. I also think a healthy Kipnis will provide better D than we saw late last season. Finally, it was noted elsewhere that the Tribe is betting heavily on groundball pitching with the Lowe aquisition (on top of Jimenez, Masterson, and Carmona). It’s possible Hannahan’s defense (Donald’s ain’t bad, either) will shine even brighter this year, and to me that’s worth the trade-off of Chiz and his still-developing bat. And as TD noted, Jackie killed left-handed pitching, anyway, so you don’t even need the platoon.

  • Destribe

    Kipnis is move valuable IMO, even though Donald and Phelps would be serviceable. I would trade Chisenhall in the right trade and live with Hannahan’s offense since his glove is so good.

    I really think they package some of the bullpen arms with some low minors guys and make a move or two. I would trade C. Perez in a heartbeat.

  • Ghost To Most

    NJ, the same thought has crossed my mind several times. Is 2011 as good as Cabrera will ever be? Despite the highlight reel plays, his defense was not that great, he strikes out a ton, doesnt draw many walks. And I actually fear that hitting all those home runs could have a negative effect on him long term. As the season wore on, we saw him trying to hit the ball out of the park, instead of trying to get on base. His OBP down the stretch was quite awful.

  • NJ

    @10- Exactly. His offense was great thanks to the power, but is that sustainable? Maybe. I worry that he might get a case of Sizemore Syndrome and hurt his other numbers by constantly swining for the fences. And if that power isn’t sustainable, I think he becomes a slightly above average hitter and a below average defender. I don’t know what to think of defensive metrics, but all of them rank Acab as below average. I’m inclined to go with that over my untrained eye.

    I just don’t know if there is a realistic trade partner in the market for a SS and willing to deal a big bat.

  • Eric G

    We are all #Kipnisses!

  • Harv 21

    something about Kipnis I really like, that “it.”

    BTW, let’s be fair, many objections to the Ubaldo deal were not simple objections to the concept of trading top prospects. It was who we received in return. Compare Ubaldo’s drop in velocity before we got him with the way CC, Cliff Lee and even Bartolo were pitching when other teams chased them. My objection was/is: you don’t do that for a guy who needs fixing.

  • khdenn

    To me it depends on the targets….what players are on the trading block that fit what we need…doesn’t that serve as a weighing factor?

  • -bobby-

    What about Phelps? I know they plan on him as a utility guy, but he could be a solid player and bring someone back.

    As for Cabrera, I thought he was pretty good defensively this year, no? I didnt think he had too many errors and made some incredible plays.

  • Ghost To Most

    Yeah NJ I hope he can hit 25 homers again, but I think realistically hes more of a .280/.340 10-15 homer kind of guy.

    His UZR this season was quite alarming, -11.8, by comparison Derek Jeter was only -6.5. I find it hard to believe that Drubal was worse than Jeter at short, but I do agree that despite his skills the lack of range is worrisome. Those soft tosses to 1st became quite irritating as the season wore on also.

  • DonFelder

    Cuban: buy the Tribe instead of LA, sign Pujols or Prince Fielder, and get us another good arm. Instant contender.

  • Olivea08

    You are on the right track with this article but don’t think teams want either of these to trade for a RH bat. Young pitching is what it will take and the Tribe still has some assets. Pain will be to include Pestano and Tomlin. Possibly Gomez and Huff. Include Mills since he put himself back on the map as a prospect with great 2nd half at Columbus. Other option would be 2010 or 2011 top picks in a trade. We have 2 years till Jimenez, Masterson & Cabrera will be next up to leave so now is time to go for broke. Would rather go all in for Title than settling for playoffs and early exit like Minnesota did for years.

  • enjoyradio

    I seem to remember Asdrubal Cabrera being a defensive force at shortstop, and didn’t he just get a Gold Glove nomination? Sure, he didn’t win, but I don’t see how we trade Asdrubal away. On the Kipnis/Chiz debate, if we had to trade one, I would agree with the consensus here on offloading Chiz, as long as this isn’t another fixer-upper like Ubaldo.

  • Pale Dragon

    We just need solid, consistent hitting. I don’t care which side of the plate it comes from. Keep both of them.

  • NJ

    @19 – The GG is and always has been a joke. Web gems do not a great fielder make.

    As for Acab, you can believe he’s a great defensive short stop and, yeah, defensive metrics are pretty wonky imo, but when BR has him listed at negative dWAR for each of the last three years and his UZR is constantly double digit negatives then I’m going to take note.

  • Shawn

    Unless that “right-handed stick” is named Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, or Evan Longoria, there is no way I deal either guy. In my opinion, there would be no point in weakening 1 offensive position to marginally upgrade at another, just to get a right handed hitter on this team. I think there is too much of a nuance going on with a guy hitting righty or lefty. If the guy can hit, I wouldn’t care which side of the plate he hits from.

    Chisenhall is only 22 years old I believe, so of course he was going to take some lumps last year. I think he will be a guy that will consitently put up 20 homers and 90 rbi. He has a sweet swing and his defense should improve.

    I like the comparison of Kipnis and Pedroia. The guy plays hard and is already a cult hero in this town. If he can approach that projection he was on last year before the injury, then I’d be more than satisfied with the 2B of this team.

    I don’t think this team is 1 guy away necessarily (seeing as though we won’t get the guys I mentioned above, Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols) so I don’t want to see any more top notch youth being dealt away. Sorry, but Phelps, Donald, Valbuena, Hannahan, etc are just run of the mill platoon and utility guys. It’s not worth dealing these guys.

    Imagine Chiz and Kipnis both hitting between .270-.290 20 90. Piece that with a healthy Cabrera, Choo, Santana, and Hafner and that is a mighty formidable lineup.

  • bridgecrosser

    Dumb premise. Indians aren’t unloading any more youth. Look maybe for a Rule 5 or Hannanan-type outfielder.

  • Karsten

    Sign Aramis Ramirez. 1st base. Those 2 guys stay, if one had to pick, it’s too easy. Kipnis stays, Chiz goes since we have Hannahan and Donald to play 3rd. We have no long-term solid solution at 2nd, Donald is best on the left side.

  • THE Porkchop Express

    I definitly give up Chiz.
    For the life of me I don’t know why the Tribe and Texas haven’t hooked up yet. If they had anyone from our bullpen they’d be champs right now, and we’d at least have been pressuring Detroit even with all the injuries, if we had one of their bats. We’re like the Ross and Rachel of the hot stove league. I propose we lock Antonetti and Jon Daniels in a room, and play With or Without You, until they have some package of relief pitchers ( and probably Chiz)and we have Michael Young.
    Sound crazy? Hear me out;
    1. We need a righty bat, they need relief pitching (duh)
    2. He’s got a big contract (16 mil through 13) however, if you take the other half of Grady’s money that knocks it down to 11 mil which is what they spent to watch Kerry Wood not play for us a couple of years ago. And next year his salary basically replaces the corpse formerly known as Travis Hafner.
    3. He still plays a position. First isn’t his natural position but if (big IF I know)he did you could platoon him with Santana, if not you can still rotate him around the infield and have him DH the other 158 games that Hafner’s pussitis is acting up.

    I know its a zero percent chance of happening, but with no basketball I’ve got a long winter of baseball dreaming to do.

  • Will C.

    I’d keep Kipnis, no doubt but after we traded White and Pomeranz, I think we should trade Phelps or Donald. There’s also Carrera they could trade.

  • EdTheRevelator

    @25 Michael Young is a defensive liability ANYWHERE on the field. The Indians have three extreme groundball pitchers in Masterson, Carmona and now, Lowe. If you get Young, Santana catches. Awful defensive infield and a recipe for disaster. He’s not the guy to get.

    However, you are on to something the Indians need to do: flip some relievers while they have value. They didn’t do that in 2008. Joe Smith and Raffy Perez should not be part of next year’s bullpen because they are both due huge raises and aren’t going to get much (if at all) better. Package those guys with Cord Phelps (who, unlike Donald or Carrera, has some trade value) and you could net something worthwhile for the Indians, perhaps a guy like a Mike Morse, to name one.

    And you don’t trade either, BTW. You can’t trade Kipnis because you’re running out of warm bodies to trot out to second, and if you trade The Chiz you’re nuts because of the lack of quality third basemen in the game. You see what you have first.

  • mgbode

    I don’t think the Rangers relief pitching is nearly as bad as it was made out in #25. Yes, it cost them the WS, but they were wore down by that point in the season.

    Down the stretch (Aug & Sept) the bullpen was a team strength of theirs.

    Even looking at the season numbers (including before the trade deadline), their bullpen’s only real problem was that they allowed too many HRs. outside of that, they were better than our staff across the board. Yes, that is a HUGE category and is incredibly important, but alot of it did have to do with Kirkman, Tomko, ODay, and Rhodes who were not getting innings in the playoffs.

    This is one of the many reasons why we should sell high on our bullpen if we can. The difference between a slightly below bullpen (Rangers) and an above average bullpen (Indians) is not really all that much.

    that’s AL relief pitching, click on the Rangers tab in the list if you want to see individual performances.