Letting Jason Kubel Walk

Timing is everything in comedy and baseball options. The Twins inked Jason Kubel to a two-year extension (value: $7.2M) in January 2009. Kubel responded with a career best season. He hit 28 home runs, notched 35 doubles, and boasted career bests in each of the slash line statistics. On the surface, it appeared the 27-year-old was tapping into his offensive potential reservoir, but an uncharacteristically high batting average on balls in play appeared to the underlying key to his offensive downpour.

A full season later and Kubel’s $5.25M option for the 2011 season no longer appears to be a bargain. Not after the worst season of his career. Kubel spent more time in the outfield because of Jim Thome’s presence and his ability to play defense is about what one would expect from a career designated hitter. The power receded to previous career norms and Kubel’s strikeout rate ticked upwards. Oh, and to make matters even worse, Kubel’s BABIP slipped to .280 (his career average now is .299).

The past two seasons place the Twins in an awkward position. Before the extension, Kubel was a cheap above average hitter who worked as a DH on a small market team. The Twins are no longer that small market team and Kubel isn’t the best DH on the roster anymore. He’s not even the best left-handed hitting DH on the roster, as he struggles mightily against lefties (.322, .286, .297 the past three seasons) and requires a platoon mate. The man can hit righties, but cannot play defense or do much of anything else.

That makes him a fungible asset. Age is no longer on his side and one has to wonder how much a catastrophic knee injury zapped his minor league potential. The Twins’ payroll flexibility is better than it used to be, but not in the neighborhood of the Gotham teams, so while it’s only $5 million, one has to think the Twins would be better off using that money to re-sign the ageless Jim Thome and chip the rest in towards re-signing their favorite bullpen arm with an expiring contract.




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22 Responses to “Letting Jason Kubel Walk”

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  1. Bryz says:

    I love Jason Kubel, but his struggles against LHP and Gardy’s refusal to bench him against LHP (see: Games 1 and 2 of ALDS vs. Yankees) are an issue, and re-signing Thome likely makes him expendable. I’d hate to see him leave (he was the first real DH the Twins have had in a while prior to Thome), but it could happen.

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    • tyrone says:

      Well, Gardy’s likely alternative to Kubel in the ALDS was Jason Repko, so it’s hardly surprising that Kubel got the nod to start. That’s one of the weaknesses of having both Kubel and Thome on the roster–it’s difficult to find room for a RH platoon mate to balance them.

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      • Bryz says:

        The way I see it was that Repko and Kubel were probably equal offensively against LHP. Repko has the advantage on defense, therefore I felt that starting him in place of Kubel could have been a defensible decision.

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  2. Ian says:

    Thome can’t play everyday anymore. Gardy rested him a lot during the season but his back acted up a couple times. Personally, I’d like the Twins to let Thome go, find another OFer and platoon Kubel/Cuddy at DH.

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    • Jesse says:

      I agree with you, Ian except concerning Thome. If Thome will come back under the same premise that he will only be part-time and (hopefully) mostly bench threat. I think he needs to be brought back for the simple fact that of the combination of Thome, Kubel, Cuddyer, and Morneau someone is bound to miss time and there will still be an adequate bat to replace them instead of Jose Morales.
      Gardenhire kept Thome fresh until he had no choice but to run him out there, at which point Thome ran out of gas. Cuddyer and especially Kubel would benefit from the platoon, but on any given day the Twins would have 2 DH’s on the bench with Butera and someone who will have to be a super-super utility, which is a less than idea situation, but you could consider Kubel and Cuddyer at least options in the outfield and at first in that situation.

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      • Bryz says:

        “Gardenhire kept Thome fresh until he had no choice but to run him out there, at which point Thome ran out of gas.”

        There’s no proof that this is true, since Thome hit .298/.404/.723 in August and .357/.518/.881 in September, unless you mean Thome’s back flared up, but that had been happening all year, not just at the end of the season.

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      • Jesse says:

        You caught me Bryz. I didn’t check the numbers so that statement was more from memory (inexcusable I know), but looking back at the game logs though, after his insane four game stretch (9/4, 9/6-7, 9/11) where he went 6/10, 5 home runs and 6 walks, he “only” hit .323/.461/.516 with 2 extra base hits (both home runs), so that is where that came from I guess…

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      • Bryz says:

        That is true though, that a good portion of those numbers came in consecutive games.

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    • MorneauVP says:

      Why not let Kubel go, sign Thames, and platoon Thome/Thames at DH or something? Signing both wouldn’t be too expensive. Sure, you sacrifice defense in right field by sticking with Cuddyer out there, but it’s not like there’s much in the way of good outfielders on the market anyway. The Twins obviously aren’t signing Werth, and who is there beyond that? Not much point in trading for a younger outfielder with so many of our top prospects being outfielders (Hicks, Revere, Benson, Angel Morales).

      Cuddyer’s making $10.5M this next season, sadly… he’s not going to be platooning. And even if he did, a Thome/Cuddy platoon would be better than Kubel/Cuddy, and probably would cost about the same.

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  3. phoenix says:

    if thome leaves (retires or is signed by another team), should they keep Kubel? or a better question: do you think they will keep him as a DH? There are going to be a couple DH’s on the market this year.

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  4. Chris says:

    Gardy for some reason loves Kubel and Punto. They’ll probably never leave. I would like to see them dump Kubel, Punto and Thome for a guy like Werth. He’d be a perfect fit for this team, giving them a righty with pop, better OF defense and a guy that actually gives a damn if they win or lose in the playoffs…

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  5. B N says:

    Even if the keep him, I can’t see them picking up the option. Kubel’s going to have to re-prove that he has value. I predict they decline and try to get him cheaper.

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  6. MorneauVP says:

    The Twins’ best course of action is to let Kubel go. I was and still am a fan of the guy on a personal level, but a lot of that stems from cheering for a good guy and former top prospect to recover from a devastating knee injury (tore three ligaments on one play — ouch).

    Pay the $350K to buyout his option, and use the remaining $5M to resign Thome and a left-handed platoon partner such as Marcus Thames. As a backup corner OF and DH versus lefties, Thames is a tremendously valuable asset. He also deepens the bench. He’s terrible in the field, but let’s be honest, our current options of Young/Cuddyer/Kubel for the corners probably make up the worst trio of corner outfielders on any team in baseball (from a defensive standpoint). It’s almost as bad as the days the White Sox would run Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin out there.

    Our outfield defense is going to be bad this year, just as it has been in recent years. Thome’s a better hitter against right-handers than Kubel, and if he’s going to cost in the same neighborhood to retain anyway, we may as well go with a combo of him and Thames (possibly Jonny Gomes, though it looks like his option will be picked up by the Reds) to maximize our offensive firepower.

    And for the love of GOD Bill Smith, please let Cuddyer GO after 2011. The $10.5M he’ll be making in 2011 is outrageous. Hopefully Hicks is ready by then, or at the very least we can hand center over to Ben Revere for a year, move Span back to right where he was actually solid in the field, and get some speed and athleticism back on this team.

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  7. Hank says:

    Well at least Matt Capps will not probably be getting 5mil a year to be a setup man after his likely arbitration raise….and pitch a lot like some other relievers in the pen. How bad was that trade again?

    The Twins have more payroll flexibility but they have 60mil committed next year to Mauer/Cuddyer/Morneau/Nathan, have to figure out what to do about Pavano and decide what they want to do with Liriano (lock him up now before his arbitration years run out after 2012 at a potential discount) or just wait it out another year (and probably lose any chance at a discount). ODog is also a FA and they also have a Punto option to decide on.

    I think they need to let Kubel and Punto go and see if they can figure out how to trade Capps (maybe deadline deal if Nathan is healthy?) This might allow them to resign Hidson (or pick up a mid level guy for 2nd, pickup a starter/Pavano and figure out the DH spot

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    • TFINY says:

      Offer Pavano Arbitration, and have him decline, and keep the two draft picks.

      Decline O-Dogs option as Casilla provides 90% of the value for 10% of the money. Decline Punto, offer him $1M or less.

      Trading Capps is a good idea, and I think locking up Liriano to a relatively cheap deal is smart.

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  8. NotDave says:

    Resign Thome, but let Kubel go? Lunacy. The chances Thome reproduces anything close to 2010 again are virtually zero. I’ll wager a tidy sum right now that Kubel outproduces Thome in 2011, and it won’t be close.

    Keep Kubel, find a suitable platoon partner, and let Thome go. He was a great find in 2010, but just like bringing an ‘ageless’ Favre back for another go around, counting on Thome in 2011 would be a mistake.

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  9. NEPP says:

    Thome had solid numbers in 08 (123 OPS+) and 09 (117 OPS+) too. As a DH, he’s still a great piece to have around…especially if he’s willing to come back at a low base price and you have other RH bats to rotate as the other half of the DH Platoon.

    Say he regresses to the guy that posted an OPS of .847 in 09…that would still put him 100 points higher than what Kubel gave you in 2010…and at less cost (a consideration for the Twins as always).

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  10. mike wants wins says:

    Kubel has to go, regretfully. He’s too expensive for the risk he’ll repeat this year. I’ve always been a fan, but he disappointed this year. Thome is likely to outproduce him on a rate basis, but Thome needs to be handled with kid gloves.

    I’d like to see a 1B/DH/RF type signed (for less money and more skill than Cuddeyer). I have no idea if that guy exists. Actually, if they aren’t sure about Morneau, I’d rather they cut Kubel, not re-sign Thome, and sign Dunn, but that is not happening.

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  11. B N says:

    I’m kind of confused why there can’t be a server-side script to just filter out posts with this particular weblink listed. Since this accounts for 90% of the spam, I think that blacklisting that particular hyperlink would be an effective stopgap, unless someone is actively monitoring the site to spam it.

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