After a breakout, All-Star season last year Jason Kipnis has struggled this year, hitting just .248 with six homers and a .664 OPS that represents a 150-point drop.
Kipnis also signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension in April and Wednesday the Indians second baseman told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that feeling the pressure from the new contract may have hurt his performance:
I might have taken it the wrong way. There’s one of two ways to go about it. There’s “Hey, I have the security and the money now I can go out and just play the game of baseball.” I took the way, where, “I’ve got this money, I’ve got to live up to it.” So I might have pressed at the beginning and tried to do too much. In hindsight that could have hurt me and played a little part of this season.
I’m in no position to say whether or not that’s true. Maybe it did weigh heavily on Kipnis and hurt his on-field performance. Who knows.
But what I do know is that we’ve all read plenty of quotes from players who say not signing a long-term contract extension has hurt their performance because they were thinking ahead to free agent. And we’ve also all read plenty of quotes from players who say trying to negotiate a contract extension during the season–which is something Kipnis avoided, for the most part–dragged down their performance.
Playing baseball at a very high level is really, really hard and lots of stuff can bump someone off track. Of course, it’s also worth noting that prior to his breakout 2013 season Kipnis hit just .257 with a .714 OPS in 2012, when there was no contract extension as a possible issue.