- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The Arizona Diamondbacks now have a glut of outfielders with the signing of Cody Ross, writes Nick Piecoro. The Diamondbacks' intent is to trade another outfielder, and privately, some in the organization have indicated that the most likely guy to go is Jason Kubel.
This is why this deal makes sense from Arizona's perspective: Kubel is regarded as a very subpar outfielder, while Ross is average, and a better athlete (with more speed) -- at the same price. Piecoro notes that the signing of Ross raises some questions of logic about Arizona's plan. If defense is being given a greater value by the Diamondbacks, why did Arizona trade away Chris Young -- a better defender than Ross, as well as being younger and carrying less long-term financial burden -- early in the offseason for a modest package?
It's all water under the bridge now: Arizona plows ahead with a higher payroll and more depth at the big league level, and if Kubel does turn out to be the guy the Diamondbacks trade, they could get a second-tier prospect in return for him. Kubel is owed $7.5 million for next season and has a $7.5 million option for 2014, with a $1 million buyout.
The teams for which he might be a fit (and these are listed in no particular order):
1. Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa Bay needs a DH, given the departures of Luke Scott and Carlos Pena; Kubel could take on that role. He would fit their payroll, given his relatively modest salary. He would give them left-handed power in the middle of their lineup, precisely where they need it:
2B Ben Zobrist
RF Matt Joyce
1B James Loney
So the Rays could definitely see value in Kubel, although Tampa Bay probably would never overpay for a DH candidate -- and there are concerns about Kubel's home/road splits: Last year, Kubel's OPS was 153 points higher in Arizona, a great hitters' park, than on the road. The question is whether some other team would be willing to give up more than Tampa Bay.
2. Chicago White Sox: With A.J. Pierzynski gone, they have a dire need for left-handed hitting, and Kubel would provide that. But he would be an imperfect fit, given their roster construction; because Adam Dunn is the primary designated hitter and Paul Konerko is the first baseman, Kubel would have to play in the outfield most days in order to be in the lineup. According to fangraphs.com, Kubel was a subpar outfielder last season -- which isn't going to be a surprise to anyone who has watched him play.
In many respects, Gerardo Parra would be a better fit for the White Sox, but he would likely be much more expensive.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: They tried to sign Ichiro Suzuki and missed, and they also missed on Ross. Kubel, who mashed 30 homers last season, would represent an offensive upgrade over Philadelphia's current options, for sure. But Ruben Amaro would have to be comfortable with Kubel's outfield defense in a year in which the Phillies are probably already going to have more than their share of defensive problems.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore has been surprisingly quiet this offseason, so the Orioles have some flexibility to make a move -- and remember, Arizona GM Kevin Towers has made deals with Dan Duquette in the past. Kubel could help DH or fill in the outfield for the Orioles, whose lineup with him could look like this:
SS J.J. Hardy
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
5. Atlanta Braves: As they signed B.J. Upton, they tried to trade for Denard Span and have had conversations about Dexter Fowler; either one of those players would be a good fit for what Atlanta needs, which is a top-of-the-order hitter. But Kubel could be a decent Plan B -- if the Braves became comfortable with the idea of adding another high-strikeout guy (151 last season) to a mix that already includes Dan Uggla and Upton. And if the Braves traded for Kubel, this would greatly reduce the playing opportunities for Juan Francisco, a very powerful hitter who is having a strong showing in winter ball (.944 OPS). If Kubel were to start in left field for Atlanta against right-handed pitchers, that would mean Martin Prado would play third, and Francisco would be on the bench.
6. Texas Rangers: They need left-handed hitting, too, and they lack power in the aftermath of Josh Hamilton's departure. But Kubel is an imperfect fit for the Rangers as well, because they prefer to keep their DH spot flexible and have a lot of day-to-day candidates: Pierzynski, on the days he doesn't catch; Mitch Moreland, if Ian Kinsler is moved to first base; Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, who seem to be constantly dealing with leg issues and could get some relief in the DH spot; David Murphy, if the Rangers prefer to play Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry in the outfield on some days.
7. New York Yankees: Sure, Kubel's swing would be perfect for Yankee Stadium, and yes, he would generate some of the power lost with the expected exit of Nick Swisher. But the Yankees' focus is on right-handed hitting right now, and they don't have much money to spend.
8. New York Mets: They certainly have room for him. But if the next two seasons are all about rebuilding for New York, what's the point in swapping assets for an older outfielder who doesn't really fit the park or the long-term plans?
Here's some more on Ross, from Justin Havens of ESPN Stats and Information:
Ross' 2012 season with Red Sox (home/road):
Slugging percentage: .565/.390
AB per HR: 19.1/25.3
Ross' numbers in 2011/2012:
Slugging percentage: .405/.481
Around the league
Hanrahan's velocity readings dipped in the second half of last season, and his control slipped markedly after he hurt an ankle. Here's Hanrahan's game log from last season.
The Red Sox will have a whole lot of arms, and should be able to put together a good bullpen. Among their options: Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Clayton Mortensen.
• The negotiations between Adam LaRoche and the Washington Nationals seem to be reaching a tipping point, and given that LaRoche doesn't have a robust market and that the Nationals have made it clear they want him back, it'd be a surprise if he signed elsewhere.
If another team were to sign LaRoche, they'd have to give up a draft pick -- and that's probably not going to happen for a 33-year-old first baseman. The Nationals want resolution on this soon and have made that clear to LaRoche. If he re-signs, as expected, then Washington's lineup will be very strong and could look something like this:
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
• The Seattle Mariners signed Raul Ibanez. Seattle has a crowd of DH candidates now, with Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, Jesus Montero, Jason Bay and Justin Smoak. At the very least, it appears Smoak will have to show something in spring training; he had a very good September after struggling for most of three seasons.
This is the third go-round for Ibanez and the Mariners, writes Geoff Baker.
• The Orioles have seen their business increase after a surprising 2012.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Phillies' outfield options are dwindling.
3. The Rays won't rush Wil Myers to the big leagues, writes Roger Mooney. At the very least, it makes sense for Tampa Bay to hold Myers out of the big leagues long enough to delay his free agency by a year.
4. The Yankees will be less reliant on power next season, writes Joel Sherman.
6. Terry Francona has been hard at work.
• Tyler Kepner writes about the Hall of Fame candidacy of Dale Murphy.
Some samplings for the Hall of Fame voting:
Bob Brookover is not voting for Bonds, Clemens or Sosa; he will vote for Dale Murphy.
The only difference between Mark McGwire and some other Hall of Fame candidates -- in their use of performance-enhancing drugs -- is that McGwire's name was in Jose Canseco's book. Jose Canseco ... the gatekeeper.
• A Vanderbilt guy is helping the Cubs.
And today will be better than yesterday.