Monday, February 17, 2014

Eye on 2014: Designated hitter

Jason Kubel with Arizona last season. It was not a good year.
Oswaldo Arcia is Jason Kubel a decade ago: Left-handed hitting corner outfielder, not particularly adept defensively, a bit overlooked because of a pair of brighter rising talents.

In Kubel's case those talents were Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. In Arcia's, they're Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

Kubel never achieved quite the level of performance expected. A big part of that was the devastating knee injury he suffered in the Arizona Fall League. That injury took away what speed was part of his game. To what extent it limited his hitting is more difficult to tell, but Kubel never hit lefties at all.

And now Kubel, age 31, prepares to report to Fort Myers on a minor-league, make-good contract. He's coming off a injury-troubled 2013 in which he hit .216/.293/.317 with Arizona and Cleveland, and coming off a winter in which he presumably drew no major-league offers. How else to explain his return to Target Field -- a hitting environment he was known to dislike -- on a minor-league deal?

He's still the favorite to open the season with the DH job. The odd thing about that is that Kubel is probably a better defensive outfielder than either Josh Willingham or Arcia. But Arcia should be given the opportunity to grow, and my guess is that Willingham as an outfielder will have more trade value in midseason than Kubel as an outfielder will.

Kubel now has almost no value, hence the minor-league deal. If he doesn't hit in 2014, he might not get another shot anywhere.

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