Jason Kubel Rumors

Central Notes: Garza, Twins, Indians

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the latest on the Matt Garza-Brewers situation, reporting that it's still unclear what might have delayed things when the two sides appeared to be close to annoucing a deal. While some have posited that the club may be waiting to announce the contract until its On Deck fan fest on Sunday, nothing indicates that is the case, Haudricourt says, writing, "I'm not even sure that Garza is still in town." The situation appears to be little changed from Thursday, when MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reported that progress wasn't halted because of medical concerns. Here's more from baseball's Central divisions:

  • Twins first baseman Chris Colabello discussed his decision to decline an offer to play baseball in South Korea with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press"A lot of people have told me: 'This is an opportunity you can't pass up,'" the 30-year-old slugger said. "I don't think I've ever chased money in my life. Why start now?" Collabello reportedly turned down an offer that would have paid him nearly $1MM this season and will instead compete for a Twins bench job. Another Minnesota farmhand, Andrew Albers, accepted an offer to pitch for the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization earlier this week.
  • Jason Kubel, back with the Twins on a minor-league deal, is well-positioned to make the club as a DH and corner outfielder, Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com writes. Jason Bartlett is another familar face who'll be competing for a Major League job, but he's seen as having less of a chance to make the team after missing all of 2013 with knee issues, according to Bollinger.
  • The Indians have hired former Diamondbacks pitching coach Charlie Nagy, though they've yet to determine what his role will be, Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer reports. The 46-year-old spent almost all of his 14-year career with the Tribe, throwing nearly 2,000 innings for Cleveland from 1990-2002 with a 4.51 ERA. Hoynes says Nagy is likely to serve as an instructor in the club's farm system.

Twins Sign Jason Kubel

TUESDAY: Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Kubel will earn $2MM if he makes the roster out of Spring Training and can earn another $1MM via incentives. Kubel will earn $150K for reaching 300 and 350 plate appearances, plus $200K for reaching 400 PAs. He also will receive $150K for spending 30 and 60 days on the Major League roster and another $200K if he reaches 90 days.

FRIDAY: The Twins announced today that Jason Kubel is once again a part of their organization. Minnesota has signed the 31-year-old to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Kubel, a client of the Wasserman Media Group's Joel Wolfe, originally left the Twins following the 2011 season in favor of a two-year, $16MM contract with the Diamondbacks. The lefty swinger had a big first year moving from the spacious Target Field in Minneapolis to Phoenix's Chase Field, slashing .253/.327/.506 with a career-high 30 home runs. However, a great deal of Kubel's damage came in the first half of that season. Though he belted 15 second-half homers, he batted just .201/.275/.470 in the season's second half.

Things didn't get better for Kubel in 2013, as he slumped to a career-worst .216/.293/.317 batting line and found himself designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks. The Indians picked him up via trade, but Kubel collected just three hits in 18 at-bats for Cleveland (he did walk five times as well).

The Twins selected Kubel in the 12th round of the 2000 draft, and he reached elite prospect status in the middle portion of last decade, ranking 17th in the game, per Baseball America. A devastating knee injury delayed his arrival as a big league regular and likely depleted some of his speed and range. He's always graded out as a sub-par defender in the outfield, but his best overall season at the plate came for the 2009 Twins. Kubel hit .300/.369/.539 with 28 homers that season.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the agreement (on Twitter). Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweeted that it was a minor league contract.


AL Notes: Beckham, Yankees, Trout, O’s, Twins, M’s

The career of the Rays' Tim Beckham, who was the first overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, hasn't gone as planned, but Beckham finally did make it to the Majors at the tail end of the 2013 season. 2014, though, may turn out to be a lost year for him, as he tore his ACL in his right knee, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times notes (on Twitter). Beckham, who turns 24 in January, hit .276/.342/.387 in 522 plate appearances at Triple-A Durham last season. Here are more notes from around the American Legaue.

  • Yankees president Randy Levine's recent comments about Mike Trout and the Angels displeased Major League Baseball, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. In reference to Robinson Cano's ten-year contract with the Mariners, Levine said, "If Mike Trout was here, I’d recommend the 10-year contract. But for people over 30, I don’t believe it makes sense." That led MLB to investigate whether Levine's comments broke any rules regarding tampering with another team's players. Levine says he called Angels president John Carpino to apologize, and he considers the matter settled.
  • The Orioles are still negotiating with free-agent closer Grant Balfour, but Balfour wants three years and the Orioles only want to give him two, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The Orioles indicate that they are willing to look elsewhere to fill their closer job if they can't find common ground with Balfour.
  • The Orioles discussed a big-league deal with Jason Kubel's agency, Wasserman Media Group, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko reports. Kubel ended up signing a minor-league deal with the Twins, however, and Kubatko suggests that's because Kubel is very confident he'll make the team in Minnesota (Twitter links).
  • After adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the Mariners still want to add a starting pitcher, a reliever and another catcher, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports. They'd like to add relief help to offset the departure of Carter Capps, who headed to the Marlins in the Morrison trade, and they're looking for a catcher because they have just two, Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre, on their 40-man.


Berardino’s Latest On The Twins

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press related the fruits of a phone conversation with Twins GM Terry Ryan in a series of tweets earlier today. Let's take a look:

  • Ryan says that despite reports, the Twins haven't made decisions on whether to tender contracts to Trevor PlouffeBrian Duensing or Anthony Swarzak, the club's three arbitration-eligible players. His comment on Plouffe in particular appears to contradict an interview from late October. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined the three arbitration cases in his recent Arbitration Eligibles entry on the Twins.
  • Nothing has been finalized on a reunion with veteran scout Larry Corrigan, whose contract with the Angels expired at the end of October, Ryan adds. We'd previously heard that Corrigan would have a role with the Twins in 2014.
  • The GM wouldn't offer comment on whether there's been contact between the Twins and Justin Morneau, saying doing so wouldn't benefit either side.
  • Ryan was similarly opaque on the Twins' interest in Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon, telling Berardino that "there's supposedly a workout." Mike Radcliff, the team's vice president of player personnel, previously told Berardino that the Twins have "watched [Yoon] forever."
  • In an article for the Pioneer Press website, Berardino reports that free agent Jason Kubel could be interested in returning to the Twins in 2014. Though the team's biggest holes are in the rotation, Berardino opines that Minnesota also needs help on offense after finishing with just 614 runs in 2013. Kubel, now 31, gave the Twins five consecutive seasons of above-average offense from 2007 to 2011, but slumped badly in 2013 for the Diamondbacks and Indians, hitting just .216/.293/.317 in 290 plate appearances.

Indians Decline Jason Kubel’s Option

The Indians have declined their $7.5MM club option on Jason Kubel, the team announced via press release. Kubel will receive a $1MM buyout, which the Diamondbacks are on the hook for following the Aug. 30 trade that sent him from Arizona to Cleveland.

Kubel was acquired for a PTBNL (later revealed to be Matt Langwell) and received only 23 plate appearances for the Tribe down the stretch. He collected just three hits in 18 official at-bats, though he walked five times, so he did manage to get on base at a .348 clip in his brief time with Cleveland.

Kubel belted a career-high 30 home runs in his first season with the DIamondbacks in 2012, but he slumped terribly and battled a quadriceps issue in 2013. Kubel spent two weeks on the DL with the issue and wound up slashing a paltry .216/.293/.317 between the D-Backs and Indians. Because he grades out as one of the worst defensive outfielders in the league, both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference agreed that he played at a sub-replacement level in 2013.

This year marked the first time since 2006 that Kubel failed to produce an OPS+ of at least 105, so he's a decent candidate to rebound with the bat. His career-high in homers came in 2012, as I mentioned before, but his best overall season at the plate came in 2009 when he slashed .300/.369/.539 with 28 homers for the Twins.


Indians Acquire Jason Kubel

SUNDAY: The Diamondbacks have announced, in a press release, right-hander Matt Langwell is the PTBNL. The 27-year-old made his MLB debut with the Indians this season appearing in five games (all in relief) allowing three runs (all earned) and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Langwell, an 11th round draft pick of the Indians in the 2008 amateur draft, has posted a 2.24 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.8 BB/9 in 60 1/3 innings for Triple-A Columbus this year covering 42 games, including one start.  

FRIDAY: The Indians swung a deal to bolster their outfield and DH depth today by acquiring Jason Kubel from the Diamondbacks in exchange for a player to be named later. Both teams have announced the trade. Arizona will reportedly receive a fringe prospect and pay all but $200K of the remaining $2.27MM owed to the 31-year-old ($1.27MM in salary plus a $1MM buyout of a $7.5MM club option). 

Kubel

For Kubel, the trade completes a fall from grace with his now-former club. After registering a strong .253/.327/.506 triple-slash line and swatting 30 home runs in 506 plate appearances last year, Kubel has failed to live up to the remainder of his two-year, $16MM deal. Always a sub-par defender, Kubel has been below average at the plate in 2013, leaving him with -1.7 fWAR on the year — second worst in all of baseball. After 267 plate appearances, his line stands at .220/.288/.324, leading to the Diamondbacks' decision to designate him for assignment on Tuesday. 

The Indians will hope that a return to the AL Central will reinvigorate Kubel, who was a positive (if unspectacular) contributor for several seasons with the Twins. His best season came in 2009 with Minnesota, when he hit .300/.369/.539 with 28 home runs over 578 plate appearances. Kubel's left-handed bat could allow him to platoon with Drew Stubbs in right and appear as a DH, although Jason Giambi has filled the role of left-handed designated hitter to date.

All in all, this acquisition is somewhat curious at first glance. For one thing, the Indians are still paying the salary of one disappointing, defensively damaging slugger — Mark Reynolds — to play for a hypothetical Wild Card rival. While he had been terrible for much of the year in Cleveland, Reynolds was swinging the stick better than Kubel, offered more positional flexibility, and has put up a very serviceable .265/.324/.471 line since joining the Yankees. And the club already has a lefty to handle DH duties (Giambi) along with three left-handed-hitting outfield options (Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and Nick Swisher). 

While the Tribe remains only four games out of the second Wild Card slot, it is not entirely clear how the acquisition of Kubel will move the needle. The team can plug an additional lefty in the lineup against righties by putting Kubel in the outfield, but even the utility of a platoon seems limited. The vast majority of Kubel's plate appearances this season came with the platoon advantage, making his numbers look all the worse. Indeed, his presumable platoon partner, Stubbs, has a .219/.278/.367 line against righties that is still better than Kubel's. Stubbs also sports a .147 ISO against same-handed pitchers and is unquestionably a better baserunner and defender. While Kubel's career numbers look much more promising than his dismal 2013, his upside is in all cases severely limited by his poor fielding and baserunning. And it is not as if the team has plenty of time to rework his swing or approach this year.

Neither does Kubel look to be a buy-low, future rebound candidate for Cleveland. His two-year, $16MM deal expires this year and contains a $7.5MM option for 2014 that seems very unlikely to be exercised. Assuming his option is bought out, Kubel will become a free agent at the end of the season. Unless the club restructures his deal or re-signs him on the open market, Kubel seems to be a short-term rental aimed at increasing the club's 2013 postseason chances.

Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first reported on Twitter that the Indians were close to acquiring Kubel. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com first reported that an agreement had been reached. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports added that Arizona will pay nearly all of Kubel's remaining salary and receive a fringe prospect (Twitter links). MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweeted that the Indians were only paying $200K of Kubel's salary.

Steve Adams and Edward Creech contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Trade Notes: Morse, Axford, Kubel

With the post-season eligibility deadline at midnight tonight, the August revocable waiver trade market is coming to a close. We just saw a big trade go down with Justin Morneau heading to Pittsburgh, and could still see more action over the afternoon and evening. One situation to keep an eye on is the possibility of the Red Sox going after a reliever, although the Boston Globe's Pete Abraham tweets that nothing is in the works for Boston at the moment.

In the meantime, let's round up some links on the recently completed deals:

  • The Orioles ultimately found Michael Morse to be "a little better fit" than Josh Willingham, GM Dan Duquette told reporters including MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, leading the team to pull the trigger on his acquisition. "Morse has a big, physical presence and has some power, and hopefully he can bounce back and have a good month," said Duquette. "He has experience and he's been to the playoffs. Those are all good things."
  • Morse's former manager with the Nationals, Davey Johnson, noted that he "shudder[s] to think" about the impact Morse could have hitting in Camden Yards, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. "That ballpark is made for him," said Johnson. "He's that right-center hitter, and that's the jet stream. He's a good fit there."
  • The Cardinals and Brewers were talking all week about a deal and swapping names before settling on the trade that sent reliever John Axford to St. Louis, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Manager Mike Matheny explained: "There's a lot of experience there, a lot of upside. It's hard to forget that two years ago this guy was one of the top relievers in the game."
  • Don't look for any more players to depart Milwaukee via trade, according to a tweet from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. GM Doug Melvin says that the team is likely to stand pat after nabbing a player to be named later and clearing some cash in the Axford deal. 
  • After picking up struggling outfielder Jason Kubel, the Indians now face the question of how to use him. As Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, manager Terry Francona praised GM Chris Antonetti for "trying to help us," but did not seem clear about how Kubel would be deployed. Francona says he first needs "to see how healthy [Kubel] is for the outfield," but did indicate that the 31-year-old could see some time at DH, sharing duties with fellow lefty Jason Giambi. "We love having G [Giambi] do what he does, but he can't do it every day," Francona explained. "It will be nice to have another bat here. If he gets hot, or gets a couple of big hits, it certainly isn't going to hurt anything." Of course, as low-average, low-speed, power-first, defensively-limited left-handed hitters, Kubel and GIambi seem somewhat redundant at this point if one of them does not regularly play in the field.

D’Backs Close To Trading Kubel To Indians

10:56pm: It could be that the Diamondbacks placed Kubel on waivers and that the Indians won the claim, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. If that is the case, of course, the Diamondbacks could simply allow the Indians to assume the remainder of Kubel's deal, which still has over $2.25MM left to be paid (including the 2014 buyout).

10:43pm: The Diamondbacks could be set to ship Jason Kubel to the Indians, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com reports on Twitter. Nick Pecoro of the Arizona Republic confirmed the report, also via Twitter, saying that a trade was close and calling Cleveland a "strong possibility" to land the outfielder.

Kubel was designated for assignment by Arizona on Tuesday. His poor defensive play and meager .220/.288/.324 line (over 267 plate appearances) led to the move, though he made a much stronger offensive contribution in 2012. 

Kubel is earing $7.5MM this season, the second of his two-year, $16MM deal. His contract includes a $7.5MM mutual option for 2014 which carries a $1MM buyout. 


Orioles Notes: Willingham, Kubel, Morneau

Last night, we learned that a mystery team claimed Josh Willingham off waivers and hours later it was revealed that the Orioles were the club making the claim.  Now, the Orioles and Twins have until tomorrow afternoon to hammer out a trade.  Here's the latest out of Baltimore..

  • In addition to their claim of Josh Willingham last night, the Orioles have also expressed interest in Jason Kubel, according to Peter Gammons of MLB Network (via Twitter). Kubel was designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. After an offensively strong 2012, Kubel has a disappointing .220/.288/.324 line in 267 plate appearances.
  • One industry source told Dan Connolly and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that it appears the Twins are more motivated to trade Justin Morneau than Willingham.  However, Willingham, a right-handed hitter, looks like the better fit for the Orioles.
  • The Orioles have made several claims this month on players, but have not ended up with a player, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.  That means the O's either couldn’t agree on a trade or they were outbid by a team with a lesser record.
  • Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com wonders if it's a good idea for the O's to deal for Willingham since it would likely chip away at their farm system.

Quick Hits: Kubel, Athletics, Twins, Harper

The Athletics should consider claiming outfielder Jason Kubel, InsideBayArea.com's John Hickey argues. The Diamondbacks designated Kubel for assignment Tuesday afternoon. After losing Josh Reddick to a wrist injury, the A's are short an outfielder. Their current plan is to slide Brandon Moss to the outfield and have Daric Barton play first base, but Hickey thinks it might be better to keep Moss at first and play Kubel in an outfield spot instead. He notes that exchanging Barton for Kubel would be a defensive downgrade, however, and it's questionable how much more offense Kubel might provide. He hit .220/.288/.324 for the Diamondbacks this year, and would have to make a significant rebound in the direction of his 2012 form to be an upgrade. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • Josh Willingham of the Twins says August waivers are "no big deal," Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (via Twitter). The Twins placed Willingham on recovable trade waivers earlier today, raising the possibility (even if it isn't an incredibly likely one) that Willingham could be dealt. Willingham tells Miller he's in no hurry to leave Minnesota. The outfielder is hitting .214/.348/.393 this season.
  • It's still not impossible that the Twins could trade Justin Morneau. But Morneau is a free agent after the season, so even if the Twins dealt him, they could bring him back for 2014. That decision could be based on how often they want Joe Mauer to play first base, 1500ESPN's Phil Mackey argues (on Twitter). Mackey argues that, in any case, the Twins shouldn't consider more than a one-year deal for Morneau, who appears to be past his prime and doesn't stack up particularly well against other first basemen.
  • Scott Boras, who represents the Nationals' Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, half-jokingly says he prefers "12-year deals" for his players, MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko reports. "I'm more into 12-year deals for young players," says Boras. "The M.O. is that you want to keep within the franchise, you want him there for a long time and you want to be there for the fans and be a marquee for them. … You're going to have to do something different if you're going to be a team of distinction." Boras was in Washington for the Nationals' game against the Marlins, and he seemed to be talking about Harper, although he did not name him directly.