Friday, September 10, 2010

Pickup Jason Kubel's extension? I don't think so

I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who has mentioned the one year anniversary of this blog you are reading. Especially Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman and Seth Stohs for linking it. Three better blogs, all worth a daily read.

Friday's twitter discussion repeats Dave Cameron's discussion about Kubel vs. Hinske with this tweet from Cameron: Jason Kubel: .335 wOBA, 0.4 WAR. Eric Hinske: .333 wOBA, 0.6 WAR. Maybe I'm not crazy after all...

I had just spoken of Kubel's extension recently in evaluating recently signed extensions. Here is what I wrote: "Jason Kubel was given a 2 year $7.2 million extension plus a $5.25 option in 2011. He has been worth a 3.5 WAR worth $15.2 million. He was worth much more in 2009 than in 2010 due to greater offensive contribution as well as a lack of exposure on defense. The Twins should exercise Kubel's option, but keeping him off the field for a better defender increases Kubel's value. As an aside, when Kubel was given his contract, Dave Cameron suggested Kubel was no better than Eric Hinske. Hinske has a 1.5 WAR and has been worth $6.5 million the last two seasons."

Kubel has certainly been worth his contract taken over two seasons and better than Hinske over the two seasons. But, most of the value was in 2009. Was 2009 a fluke? Kubel has never had a season above a .8 WAR outside of 2009. He's never had an OPS above .806 other than in 2009. Kubel has brought a decent but not dominant bat most of his career. He is also poor defensively. He has shown the ability to make a catch on any ball close to him. The problem is, his range doesn't allow him to get close enough to many balls.

The Twins have a $5.25 option on Kubel with a $350,000 buyout. Should the Twins pickup this option? It depends on 2009 being the fluke and not 2010. Kubel's .4 WAR in 2010 would not be worth anywhere near $4.9 million. His 3.0 WAR in 2009 was easily worth it. To break even financially, the Twins would need to get a WAR of 1.3-1.4 out of Kubel. Kubel is going to have to be worth 13+ runs above replacement. Given Kubel's poor defense and his position, he'll need an OPS of at least .850 as a full-time player to be worth $4.9 million. Kubel's career OPS is .805. Kubel's 2010 numbers are below his career average. Kubel has had 4 full seasons since recovering from his injury in the Arizona Fall League in 2004. His 2010 numbers are the worst of the 4 year stretch. Did Kubel top out at 27 and is now in decline?

Numbers wise, I find it unlikely that Kubel will achieve enough offense to be worth $4.9 million. Does letting him go hurt the team so much, that paying Kubel $4.9 million is still worth it? For the record, I think the Twins will pickup his option.

Assuming Morneau is healthy for 2010. The Twins have Morneau at first base. They'll have Young, Span, and Cuddyer to play the outfield with Repko as their fourth outfielder. Ben Revere has already been added to the 40 man roster. Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni, coming back from injury, should also added to the 40 man roster. The Twins also have a 6 year free agent in Brandon Roberts in AAA, who could provide additional depth assuming he remains in the organization. Cuddyer is the current first baseman and the backup to Morneau. The Twins have some 1B depth in Brock Peterson, who'd have to be added to the 40-man or I'm sure he'd bolt to another organization after 7 minor league seasons. Chris Parmelee will most likely be added to the 40 man roster and has a future as a power first baseman, but may not be ready to contribute in 2011.

There is some depth if Kubel walks but there are a couple other questions: Is Jim Thome re-signed? I have advocated for this and he'll cost about what Kubel's extension costs. Thome, even in a reduced capacity is probably going to be more valuable than Kubel in 2011. Could Micheal Cuddyer be traded instead? Cuddyer is loved by the team and is owed $10.5 million while providing similar offensive and defensive production as Kubel in 2010. The money/production would tell me that Cuddyer will not be traded.

Kubel has been a fair hitter for the Twins over the last 4 years. In 2009 he showed the kind of skill at the plate that made him such a highly regarded prospect. If the Twins are able to re-sign Thome, I'd let Kubel walk. If they don't sign Thome, there should be enough other guys to fill the roster. If the Twins lack financial flexibility, I'd also let Kubel go. If the Twins have the money to keep Kubel as a luxury, I'd say do it. For $4.9 million, he could restore some of his 2009 magic.

Kubel has had many decent moments with the Twins, but he is getting expensive. He will be 29. He's shown decent power. He's also a defensive liability. If the Twins have the luxury to keep Kubel, they should. If there is only enough money to sign either Kubel or Thome or if the money can be used to keep Orlando Hudson or sign a pitcher, letting Kubel go could turn out to be a smart move. I like Kubel a lot, but his value may be less than he is owed.

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