Scouting The Trade Market: Jason Kubel


(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

With Ichiro Suzuki back in the fold, the Yankees are set in all three outfield spots minus a right-handed complementary piece. They are still lacking a DH though, and given the offensive hit they’re expected to take behind the plate and in right field, finding a legitimate offensive producer for the DH spot is quite important. Raul Ibanez had some amazingly clutch homers in September and October, but his regular season performance (102 wRC+) didn’t wow anyone.

The Diamondbacks have been a popular team this offseason, mostly because they keep floating Justin Upton’s name in trade rumors. GM Kevin Towers has already dealt outfielder Chris Young (for Heath Bell) and top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer (for shortstop prospect Didi Gregorious), plus he’d made a handful of stealthy free agent signings (Brandon McCarthy and Eric Chavez). Upton’s name continues to pop up in trade talks, but both Steve Gilbert and Ken Rosenthal recently reported Towers is more likely to trade Jason Kubel.

Most Yankees fans remember the 30-year-old Kubel for his grand slam off Mariano Rivera a few years back (video), and to a lesser degree his dreadful postseason performances against New York while with the Twins (2-for-29 with 13 strikeouts). He signed a two-year, $15M deal with the D’Backs last winter and rewarded them by hitting .253/.327/.506 (115 wRC+) with a career-high 30 homers. Let’s see if he’s a fit for the Bombers…

The Pros

  • Kubel, a left-handed batter, hits righties pretty hard. He posted a .264/.348/.540 (129 wRC+) line against them this past year and .267/.338/.485 (119 wRC+) over the last three years. As his spray charts show (2012, 2010-2012), he’s primarily a pull hitter against righties and that will play very well in Yankee Stadium.
  • Despite the modest OBP, Kubel works the count very well. He saw a career-high 4.25 pitches per plate appearances in 2012, and over the last three seasons it’s 4.13 P/PA. That’s up there in Kevin Youkilis and Nick Swisher territory. Kubel drew a walk in 11.4% of his plate appearances against righties this year and 9.7% over the last three years.
  • Outside of a foot sprain that cost him two months in 2011, Kubel has avoided the DL every year since knee surgery cost him the entire 2005 season.
  • There’s a $7.5M club option ($1M) buyout in Kubel’s contract for 2014. It’s affordable enough that even if his team doesn’t want him in 2014, they would be able to exercise the option and find a trade partner.

The Cons

  • Kubel is a platoon bat. He hit just .234/.291/.446 (90 wRC+ and 29.6 K%) against southpaws this season and .239/.304/.403 (90 wRC+) over the last three years. That’s not an Ibanez-level split, but it’s still below-average.
  • The various defensive metrics all agree that Kubel is a poor defender in both outfield corners. He has plenty of experience in each spot and this isn’t a sample size issue. He’s a terrible defensive player.
  • Speed? It’s not happening. Kubel has eleven stolen bases (in 17 attempts) in nearly 900 big league games, and he’s taken the extra base just 30% of the time his career. That’s well-below-average and awful.

Towers is the president of the anti-strikeouts fan club, which is why he’s traded Mark Reynolds and Chris Young while letting Adam LaRoche walk as a free agent since getting the job in Arizona two years ago. Kubel’s strikeout rate has climbed in each of the last five years, topping out a career-worst in 2012, so perhaps that’s why the club is more inclined to move him than Upton. Both guys will whiff 120+ times a year, but Upton offers a ton more upside and a more well-rounded game in general.

The $7.5M price tag for 2013 isn’t cheap, but the Yankees would be able to maximize Kubel’s value by sticking him at DH and letting him take a couple hundred at-bats against righties. The short right field porch with his pull-oriented approach should result in some big power numbers, enough to replace Ibanez and make up for some the offense lost by going from Nick Swisher to Ichiro. He can also fake the outfield in case of emergency and is right in the prime of his career, so age-related decline is not a concern.

There haven’t been many trade involving one year of a left-handed platoon-ish DH in recent years, so we don’t have many comparables. Arizona acquired their shortstop of the future in Gregorious but they still need a long-term third base answer, though they’re unlikely to get that type of player back for Kubel. For Upton? Sure. But not Kubel. The hard-throwing but erratic Tony Sipp is their only lefty reliever, so maybe the eminently tradeable Boone Logan and a solid (but not elite) prospect would work for the D’Backs. I didn’t like the idea of Kubel as a everyday right fielder, but he sure does fit New York’s need as a left-handed DH.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

    Can’t we please just resign Swisher and let Grandy walk next season? Then plug Gardner in CF, Ichiro in LF (hooray for giving him two years *rolls eyes*) and Swish in RF in 2014.

    • Elton Cod says:

      Resigning Swisher at this point isn’t a bad idea. We’re not making the playoffs for the next two years anyway, so he can’t do too much damage.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Yeah, as much as I’d like to see that also, I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed with the signing of Ichiro (unless the Yankees decide to trade Granderson, which I’m also pretty sure isn’t happenning, but we can dream).

      Kubel in place of Ibanez? While the salary isn’t horrible and it seems like he’d be an offensive upgrade, I don’t like the cost of Logan +. Logan alone, and I’d pull the trigger. I guess it really depends on who else they’d have to send over. Dickerson? OK, as the team doesn’t really have a place for him. Would need to see what other names might interest the D-Backs.

      • Preston says:

        The Indians are apparently talking like 4 years 50 million for Swisher, that’s a steal. He can occupy the same role that Kubel would, except obviously play more days in the field. Ichiro is ancient, Granderson got really worn down last year, and Tex had injury problems too. Swisher could play in RF say 40 games instead of Ichiro, 40 games for Grandy, maybe only like 10 for Gardner as well as 10-15 for Tex, and then get ~ 50 games at DH. I know they don’t seem to be interested, but damn I really want the guy back.

        • Cris Pengiucci says:

          At that price? Sign me up! I’d take him back at $12.5MM/year. Let’s see if the front office feels the same way. I hope so.

        • Bob Buttons says:

          Someone in the front office should get an earful if Swish goes away for that price (unless they do something even more genius)

    • trr says:

      why in God’s name would you want a choke artist like Swisher?
      Especially now that he’s entering his declining years?
      This team needs to get younger/faster/ cheaper, spemd all the megabucks developing new talent all around the globe. then we’ll have a team to be proud of!

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      I am a fan of the trade Grandy and bring Swish move. Doubt it happens though.

  2. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    Is the difference between Kubel and Ibanez worth the price of what it would take to acquire him?

    He’s better than Ibanez and if they could get him for something like Logan and Warren, or Logan and Cojo, I’d probably say yes but I don’t think I’d give up any prospect with a high ceiling.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I’d say younger and more pop. That’s for sure.

      Sell high on Logan and see what Stairs has in Spring Training? You could always swing a deal for an extra bullpen hand to keep the seat warm for Montgomery if that fails. Rapada will be back, I’m sure, as LOOGY until he’s no longer good at it.

  3. James says:

    What about a Alfonso Soriano reunion?? The cubs are willing to cover 16 of the 26 mm owed to him. I mean this guy has a righthanded power bat, and has had success in NY before. 2yrs/10mm is a good deal in my opinion, even if it does mean giving up a solid prospect…

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      I”d take Soriano too on a salary dump. He could be part time DH/part time LF and add some righty power to the team.

      Also even though he has a reputation as a horrible outfielder, his UZR has been positive for 6 of the last 7 years so maybe he’s not quite as horrible as his reputation leads you to believe though I’m a skeptic when it comes to advanced defensive metrics.

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        Have him act as the RH DH/4th or 5th OF while A-Rod is out and see how he does. At $5MM/year, doesn’t seem like too bad of an option, but with A-Rod possibly needing to become closer to a full time DH going forward, it may handcuff the team a bit in ’14.

      • Joba is Einhorn...Einhorn is Joba says:

        one pitch, one swing, one nothing…best yankee commercial ever

      • hogsmog says:

        I don’t know, the fact that Ichiro took a 2-year instead of 1 seems to make the adoption of another 2-year contract for another oldish outfielder less likely.

  4. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I’d definitely be game on Kubel if the price is right.

  5. Max says:

    If Logan and a top-10 prospect in the Yankees’ system is all it takes to get Kubel, they should go for it.

    In the alternative, Lance Berkman makes a ton of sense for DH. The Astros just signed Carlos Pena, so that’s one potential suitor out.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      I was hoping we signed Pena just to see if the OMG STRIKEOUTS! whining would be even worse next year.

      Because obviously it would have been.

    • Preston says:

      Trading for Kubel makes a ton of sense. I also like Lance Berkman, although I think he’s probably going to retire.

  6. miketotheg says:

    I can’t believe they haven’t signed Ibanez. DH-Back up outfielder-pinch hitter wunderkid. Just SIGN the guy. what gives?

  7. LK says:

    Between Ichiro, Granderson, Gardner, and the likely awful production from C, adding Kubel would make this lineup get eaten alive by LHP without a very strong RH bench, even assuming that Cano’s struggles against lefties in 2012 were just a blip (I think they were). He’s still the best option that I’ve seen thrown out though.

  8. Bruce says:

    Please, not Kubel. The guy’s a bum. Might as well get casey McGhee back.

  9. Alex H says:

    I think trading for Kubel could be really great or a huge bust. If he plays like he did last year he would be a great addition to the team as a DH but he could bat .220 and hit 15 HR you never know. If the Yankees do end up giving up prospect then they should be careful because they don’t want another Jesus Montero incident.

    • LK says:

      By “Jesus Montero incident,” do you mean they want to avoid trading another top prospect who goes on to have a sub-.300 OBP and relegate himself to DH by the end of his rookie season, so that other teams don’t start refusing to trade with Yankees believing their prospects to be lemons?

      I think Austin Jackson is a better example for what you’re going for here, at least for not (I haven’t given up on Montero yet).

      • LK says:

        *now. D’oh

      • trr says:

        are you really gonna judge Montero by one year?
        He’s 22 years old for Chrissake

        • LK says:

          Did you read the end of my comment where I say I haven’t given up on Montero yet?

          • JobaWockeeZ says:

            And do you not notice how contradictory it is? Not his fault you’re arguing two different sides.

            • LK says:

              The first part was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Then, I figured that some people might miss it, so I figured I’d put a disclaimer at the end saying that I still think Montero could become a good player. Alas.

              It is not contradictory to acknowledge that Montero was terrible last year (below replacement level according to both fWAR and bWAR) and still maintain some hope for his future as a player.

      • Bob Buttons says:

        Bob Lemon was a pretty good player and I bet all GMs wish they could develop a few Lemons

  10. Mr G says:

    You should add past playoff performances to the list of cons. He didnt show up in three Division Series.

    2 for 29 (1 double, 1 single, 3 BB, 13 K) in 8 games. He was a big reason why the Twins were first round knockouts against the Yankees in 2004, 2009 & 2010.

    The guy has been a bigger playoff choker than Swisher. Ill be it in less games but still. Its evident that the postseason clutch gene has not been kind to Jason Kubel.

  11. dkidd says:

    if swisher can actually be signed for something in the neighborhood of 4/50, the yankees have to jump back in, don’t they?

    what kind of draft pick do they get if he signs with cleveland? is that a factor in their decision?

  12. Scott says:

    Kubel would add value but the question is what the price would be. My guess/fear is that AZ would want a top prospect or Nova/Hughes. But Berkman is available for similar money; I’d take Kubel over Berkman, but would I rather have Kubel than Berkman plus Nova? No.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I have an unreasonable dislike for Lance Berkman. He’s just one of those guys who looked really awkward in pinstripes.

      Wouldn’t do Nova in a deal for sure. I actually bank on teams wanting to give up more for “good Nova.”

  13. Reggie C. says:

    Kubel looks fat in that picture. So long as he doesnt need to mann the OF, the bat is all we need.

  14. Preston says:

    I have just decided that I should divide people I meet into two groups, people who do or don’t like Nick Swisher. I can’t imagine I could ever get along with you if you dislike Nick Swisher.

  15. MannyGeee says:

    My most vivid memories of Kubel include him falling flat against the Yankees (much like the rest of the Twins did) in the playoffs, as well as the Granny off MO, as well as being Canadian.

    Those are literally the only three things i know about Jason Kubel. Part of a shitty Twins team (or 5), hit a grand slam off MO, and potentially Canadian.

    Naturally, his mysterious allure means I want him on my team.

  16. Scardino says:

    I like Kubel, I’d prefer Swisher

  17. Raza says:

    Possibly stupid question but where do you look up that base-running stat (taking the extra base, etc..)?

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