The Twins have Delmon Young, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer under team control for 2011, so they could get by without Jason Kubel. But because the team can bring Kubel back for a reasonable $5.25MM option, it seems likely that he'll return to Minneapolis for another season.
Assistant GM Rob Antony expressed interest in bringing Jim Thome back next year, but as the Twins showed this summer, extra outfield depth can make a big difference. Kubel can hit, though his production has dropped off this year after a tremendous 2009 season. Target Field has been tough on many hitters including Kubel, whose .787 OPS sits 120 points lower than his 2009 mark. Still, with 18 homers, the ability to play left or right field and a solid .261/.339/.448 line, Kubel has value.
The Twins will pay the 28-year-old $350K regardless (the cost of his buyout), and $5.25MM is reasonable, especially at a time when the team's most promising outfield prospects, Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks, still need minor league seasoning. Kubel projects to be a Type A free agent, so the Twins could theoretically turn down his option, offer arbitration and obtain picks if Kubel signs elsewhere. That seems unlikely, since Kubel will be affordable and should be productive.