Jason Kubel Rumors

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). 


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.

Diamondbacks Designate Jason Kubel

The Diamondbacks tweet that they have designated outfielder Jason Kubel for assignment. The move clears space on their 25-man roster for pitcher David Holmberg.

Kubel has hit poorly in 2013, posting a .220/.288/.324 line in 267 plate appearances after posting an .833 OPS in 2012. He is also a weak defensive player, making his lack of offense that much harder to take.The Diamondbacks were reportedly shopping Kubel before the July trade deadline, but did not trade him.

Kubel is in the final year of a two-year, $16MM deal. He is making $7.5MM in 2013, and his contract also calls for a $1MM buyout of his mutual option for 2014.

Diamondbacks Shopping Kubel, Kennedy

The Diamondbacks have been shopping Jason Kubel and Ian Kennedy, according to Peter Gammons of the MLB Network (on Twitter). Gammons notes that the salary they would save by moving both players still wouldn't be enough to offset the acquisition of Jake Peavy, a favorite of Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers. Both Kubel and Kennedy have struggled in 2013.

Kubel, 31, belted 30 homers last year in his first season with the Snakes, but his overall production masked a dreadful second half. Kubel hit .201/.275/.470 following the All-Star break last season, and he's batting just .234/.312/.356 with five homers this season. He's battled a quad injury that has required two trips to the DL this season in the second year of a two-year, $15MM contract he signed in Decmeber 2011. Kubel's deal also contains a mutual option for 2015.

Kennedy, 28, has a 5.22 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 36.2 percent ground-ball rate in 119 innings this season. Each of those represents the worst full-season mark of Kennedy's career, though his primary problem has been struggles with men on base. Kennedy has stranded just 65.9 percent of baserunners this season — a drastic decline from his career mark of 74.9 percent he carried into this season. Kennedy is earning $4.27MM this season and is controlled through the 2015 season as an arbitration-eligible player.

Cafardo On Saunders, Kubel, Reed, Tigers

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Pirates have lofty dreams and the talent to make them a reality.  “It’s certainly nice to feel that buzz in the city, and the recognition we get, it’s nothing we don’t deserve,” standout pitcher Jeff Locke said. “Some of our guys play with a chip on their shoulder because now that we’re doing well, everybody loves us. Everybody’s wearing Pirates hats. This city has a lot of passion for its sports teams. I know when the Bruins were playing the Penguins it would take me 45 minutes to go about four-10ths of a mile because of the traffic in the city. I know how passionate people are about their team. People are coming out and they believe in us.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders should become a commodity after Matt Garza is moved and even though Seattle isn't looking to trade him, they'll certainly listen to offers.  Cafardo cautions not to be surprised if the Orioles look to reacquire him after he pitched so well for them late last season.
  • The Diamondbacks are open to dealing Jason Kubel if they can get a pitcher in return. Kubel, who hit 30 homers last season, has only five to go along with a .237/.315/.356 slash line.
  • White Sox closer Addison Reed is available, though the price will be much steeper than it was for Matt Thornton, or will be for Jesse Crain once he’s back in action.  There’s been a lot of speculation about the Tigers being a player for him, and all indications are that GM Rick Hahn would be willing to deal him to a division rival if the return was decent.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is due to come off of the DL tomorrow and could become a trade chip for Milwaukee if he shows that he is healthy.

Orioles Notes: Upton, Uehara, Urrutia

A few notes on the Orioles..

  • The Orioles considered trading pitching for a hitter last offseason, but decided not to deal their young hurlers, Jayson Stark of ESPN reports. Stark says the Orioles would not include Dylan Bundy in a deal with the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton, and also ultimately passed on Jason Kubel. “Some of the bats that we could get would have improved our team,” says executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. “But it wasn't a huge improvement. And we wanted to hold onto the pitching depth and see if we could utilize the pitching depth to have a competitive team. And we could always take a look at that [later].”
  • Koji Uehara thought he might return to Baltimore this offseason, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports. "I thought that there would be a possibility [of playing in Baltimore], but I didn't especially put a lot of weight on each team or one particular team," says Uehara. "I thought that every team had a chance." The Red Sox signed Uehara to a one-year, $4.25MM deal in December.
  • Outfielder Henry Urrutia has finally arrived in the United States, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports writes. The 26-year-old Cuban defector received a $779K bonus from the Orioles in 2012, but had been in Haiti and has only now received a work visa. He will take a physical, then head to Orioles minor-league camp in Sarasota. The O's had intended to send Urrutia to Double-A Bowie last year, Kubatko notes.