Consider the stove lit.
Mets have had trade talks with Tigers about Ian Kinsler and also with the Indians about Jason Kipnis. I hear they may also use winter meetings to explore deal with Pirates for Josh Harrison.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) December 9, 2017
Trade talks do not necessarily equate to trade negotiations; negotiations do not always signal the intent to make a deal. The willingness to discuss the potential for a Kipnis trade is also not surprising when reviewing the rosters of the teams. The Mets resigned Asdrubal Cabrera, but with the intent to slide him over to third base. This replaces David Wright, who has been dead to the baseball world since May of 2016. Gavin Cecchini is current 2nd baseman on the Mets’ depth chart is a top-10 prospect in the Mets’ system, but he is likely to shift to his natural position at shortstop while Andres Gimenez makes his way through the system. This leaves second base open for business.
The Indians, meanwhile, have two all-star caliber second baseman in Kipnis and Jose Ramirez. Compounding the roster pressure further is the existence of Yandy Diaz, Erik Gonzalez, and Giovanny Urshela, all of whom provide value in utility or starting (#FreeYandy) roles. The Indians also owe Kipnis $28M over the next two seasons, with a $16.5M club option for 2020 stapled to a $2.5M buyout. With Carlos Santana set to depart, a trade for Kipnis might accomplish two things: the resolution of an unusual depth chart problem, and the retaining of Santana at first base.
As with any rumor during hot stove season, it may simply be the teams making early noise to feel out what other teams are looking to acquire, and at what cost. The mere fact of negotiations existing might spur another team to begin asking after Kipnis, strengthening the Indians’ bargaining position. It may also spur the Marlins to offer up Starlin Castro, who some believe they aren’t planning on keeping anyway. By the way, are the Marlins planning on fielding a team next season?
What I’m unsure of in this situation is what the Mets could reasonably offer the Indians to make the trade fair. I can’t imagine players like Michael Conforto or Jeurys Familia are available. It’s possible the Mets might be willing to deal someone like Thomas Szapucki, a 21-year-old lefty in single-A with the ability to touch 97 and good feel on a curveball and changeup. Even this might require an additional piece, and Szapucki is currently recovering from Tommy John Surgery, as well.
All of this excludes the discussion as to whether or not the Indians should trade Kipnis right now, which is a question we won’t know the final answer to until the end of his contract.