Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Give Up on Kubes

I'm really digging the Twins winning ways lately and the hopeful Twins fan in me is starting to have dreams of this team winning 25 out of 30 games and getting back into the division race. The realistic fan in me knows that's not likely. In the likelier scenario that the Twins are still "out of it" at the end of June, they'll likely become sellers and I'm here to beg that they consider re-signing Jason Kubel. Here is my case:

We're all familiar with the ups and down of Jason Kubel's career with the Twins. Kubes destroyed Minor League pitching for 4 years before getting a shot at the Bigs in 2004. He didn't disappoint, hitting .300/.358/.433 as a 22-year-old in 23 games with the Twins. That fall, he endured a serious knee injury which kept him out of baseball for the entire 2005 season, and while he re-emerged with the Twins in 2006, the results were nothing like before. Kubel struggled for a couple of seasons in 2006 and 2007 before putting it all together in 2008. In '08, he hit .272/.335/.471 with 20HRs and 78RBIs while seeing part-time action in the outfield. In 2009, he had his 'breakout' hitting .300/.369/.539 with 28HRs and 103 RBIs. In a contract-year last season, he only managed a .249 batting-average, but did surpass the 20 homerun plateau for the 3rd straight season while driving in 92 runs.

Last off-season, the Twins picked up a $5.25M option on Kubel which was a pretty good deal for them and a pretty good deal for Kubel as well, considering how little he did in 2010 to help himself out. At the beginning of this year, while almost everything and everyone fell apart around him, Kubel was spectacular hitting .310/.355/.465 with 5HR and 30RBI before landing on the DL with a sprained left foot on June 2nd. As we get closer to July, talk around the interwebs has increased about the likelihood of the Twins being sellers, and Kubel's name gets mentioned often, along with the likes of Michael Cuddyer, Kevin Slowey and Delmon Young. Let's take a look at other left-handed power hitters over the last three years:

Click to enlarge (props to
The graph is pretty small, so if you don't feel like clicking on it, I'll let you know what it says. To produce the graph I sorted by OFers with a qualified # of at-bats over the last three years. Then I sorted it further by hitters against right-handed pitching and then sorted it from highest to lowest OPS. Over the last three years, Kubel has the 11th highest OPS (.883), the 11th highest batting average and the 8th most HRs against right-handers...among all of the outfielders in baseball. You won't find his name on the WAR leaderboards, but that's because his defense is so atrocious. If he was strictly in a DH role, his value would increase. Without Thome next year, the Twins will likely have an opening at DH, a role Kubel is familiar with and could probably excel in.

I'm not trying to make it sound like Kubel is a superstar player. He's not. What I am trying to say is that Kubel, as a left-handed hitter with power, possesses an offensive skill-set that is not all that common in MLB, and is not easily replaceable if they trade him or let him go. Kubel has had some injury problems over the years, but for the past three season he's been a consistent producer and a valuable part of the Twins lineup. For a reasonable amount of money, say $5-$7M per over 3-5 years (Kubes is only 29) you could have yourself a very capable DH who gives you some flexibility to play him in the field if someone goes down with an injury. With the salaries of Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan coming off the books at the end of the season, $5-7M/year is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a guy who can hit with power from the left side of the plate.

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