So, I’ve been saying to myself all winter that there is no way Sandy Alderson would be the slightest bit interested in a player like Jason Kubel because of his poor defensive reputation. I had already read Moneyball, but I was listening to the audiobook version yesterday while driving (thanks to my lovely fiance) and right before Michael Lewis got into talking about the rise of Bill James, he said something about the former Oakland and current New York GM that made me change my mind.
While Alderson implemented a rule that each minor league affiliate of the A’s had to walk more often, Lewis said that Sandy valued offense more than defense, but batting average shouldn’t be the focus. What do hitters need to do to score runs? They need a high on-base and slugging percentage (sound familiar?). At that time, he was willing to sacrifice defense to get the offense they needed to score enough runs to come out on top at the end of the year; he’s shown a willingness to do that with players like Daniel Murphy learning to play second base and Lucas Duda doing the same in the outfield.
So, even though Kubel had a -5 Rdrs last season to go with a .253 batting average, his on-base percentage (.327) and slugging percentage (.506) alone could make him look attractive enough to discuss a trade with Arizona GM Kevin Towers, who would prefer to unload one more outfielder after signing Cody Ross right before Christmas.
Throughout most of his eight-year career in the Big Leagues, Kubel has displayed an ability to hit for power and get on base consistently. He was selected in the 12th round of the 2000 amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins straight out of Highland High School in California, and after making his debut in 2004, he didn’t become a permanent member of the roster until 2006. Since the ’07 season, there has been only one year when he didn’t appear in at least 128 games, which was his last season with Minnesota, when he appeared in 99. He does strike out a lot (20% career K-rate), but his career walk rate is a respectable 9% while averaging 24 homers and 94 RBI a season.
Kubel’s first season in the desert was a successful one as he made the switch from American League to the National League; he compiled a .253/.327/.506 line with a career-high 30 homers, 90 RBI, and a career-high 75 runs scored. It was the fourth time he hit 20+ long balls, and third time he’s driven in 90+ runs.
Outside of his defense, the only downside to Kubel is that he’s a left-handed hitter in what is already projected to be a lefty dominated outfield at Citi Field. He’s signed a two-year/$16 million deal last winter with Arizona, and is set to make $7.5 million in 2013; there is also a $7.5 million team option in his contract for 2014. Depending on what Towers wants in return, this could be a worthy risk to be taken by the Mets. If a trade is made and Kubel makes his way to Flushing, 2013 can be used to see if he’s a fit with the current team moving forward. If he’s not, he could surely be used as trade bait for an American League team around next season’s non-waiver trade deadline. Ideally, a right-handed hitter to balance out the lineup is likely preferred, but this lefty has the power that this team needs as well.
Do you want Sandy to pursue Kubel? If not, what would you rather see him do to help the New York outfield?