Team-first Kipnis relieved to stay at second base

Veteran would have moved to outfield if needed, but club happy he'll remain at keystone

August 1st, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- could not help but hear the various trade rumors involving the Indians over the past couple of weeks. When he would walk into a clubhouse, MLB Network was usually on one of the televisions. When he opened Twitter, names of possible targets for the Tribe were on his feed.

"It's hard not to see it," Kipnis said. "Even without looking for it, it's in our face."

But Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, did not want Kipnis to be blindsided by any of the team's decisions. That is why Antonetti sat down with the veteran second baseman a couple of weeks ago to discuss the situation. Antonetti also wanted to know if Kipnis -- as he did last season -- would be willing to move to center field if an opportunity arose to add an impact infielder.

Kipnis was willing to make the switch, but that scenario is no longer in play. When the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon, the Indians had acquired center fielder from the Tigers to address the need for outfield help. Kipnis could stay put at second base, which was the team's preference all along.

"To Kip's credit, he was incredible with it," Antonetti said. "He said, 'Hey, I care most about being part of a winning team that wins the World Series, and whatever I can do to help that -- whether that's play second base or play the outfield -- I'd be willing to do. So, if you can get a player who helps us, I'll play wherever I can contribute and help the team.'

"That allowed us to explore a lot of options. In the end, none of those options came to fruition, so Kip is going to continue to play second base for us, and we're really happy about that."

Back when Antonetti met with Kipnis, there were rumblings that the Indians had inquired about Texas third baseman . (traded by the Twins to the Dodgers) and (traded by the Mets to the Phillies) were also linked to the Tribe. Before superstar Manny Machado went from the Orioles to the Dodgers, Cleveland was also rumored to be in the mix on that front.

• Every team's moves up to the Deadline

If the Indians would have acquired a third baseman -- that is where Machado would have fit, given 's presence at shortstop -- All-Star third baseman could have moved to second. Ramirez was at that position down the stretch last season, playing into Kipnis' move to center.

"[Antonetti] came to me earlier about, when I think Machado was still in play," Kipnis said. "And he said, 'We have no tires spinning yet, but I just wanted to run it by you, about if that were to happen, and maybe moving back to center.' I said, 'If you get Machado, yeah, I'll play center.' That's been the culture in here for a while. Guys doing anything that it takes to win."

Indians manager Terry Francona said Antonetti's approach to the matter probably played into Kipnis being open-minded about a position switch.

"In the end, we really did want to keep him where he was," Francona said. "There's obviously a lot of ways to go, but I think we felt like we're a better team keeping him where he is. And I also think part of maybe Kip's willingness is Chris' honesty with him. I don't know if you see too many front-office guys that are willing to sit down in the food room and talk to a guy. And I think that goes a long way."

After the news landed that the Indians acquired Martin, Kipnis did feel a sense of a relief.

"A little bit, yeah," Kipnis said. "It's what I've been doing all year, so there's [comfort there]. Oddly enough, we're getting closer to finally getting my legs underneath me. They haven't even been there all year. Still, there's been a bunch of scar tissue hanging around in my hamstrings and stuff and I haven't had a high gear.

"So, I think I finally had to buckle down even more on them once that center field idea came up again. I was like, 'Oh, crap, I better get a headstart on some of this other stuff.' So, I think even though there's times where there's been some bumps in the road so far at second -- we'll put it that way -- I think I've got some good baseball ahead of me coming up."