During the off-season, many have pointed at Justin Upton and Jason Kubel as the two most prominent Arizona assets that could be traded. While we have already made the case on this website as to why we need to keep Justin Upton, the case needs to be made as to why Jason Kubel needs to remain with the team as well. In fact, I think Kubel remaining with the team this season is tantamount to the Diamondbacks making the playoffs this year.
When Jason Kubel came to Arizona from the Minnesota Twins before last season, very few people felt that we were getting a major piece of a winning puzzle. Many naysayers actually felt that obtaining Kubel made us worse as a team because he would take at-bats away from Gold Glove winning outfielder Gerardo Parra. While my thoughts are known on Parra, I think that Jason Kubel is the better option in left field while Parra is better playing the role of defensive replacement off of the bench or competing for playing time with Adam Eaton in center field.
First, corner outfield positions are power positions in the order offensively. in 2012, Kubel hit .253 with 30 home runs and 90 RBI’s in his first season in Arizona. This is production that was unmatched in their lineup from a power perspective. He led the team in home runs and RBI’s. He was second in slugging percentage and third in OPS and doubles. During his eight year major league career, he has a 162 game average of .268, 24 HR and 94 RBI’s. That is production that Gerardo Parra cannot replace on an everyday basis.
Second, he carried the team for stretches in the early and middle portions of the season. He struggled down the stretch, but also was our best player for portions of the season. It is very difficult to find a guy that can put an entire team on his back for stretches of a season. Especially one who comes with an affordable price tag. Kubel is making $7.5 million a season through this season with a team option (also $7.5 million for the 2014 season). That makes Kubel amongst the highest paid players on the team. But, if you want to compare that number to two other former D’backs, Stephen Drew ($7.75 million) and Chris Young ($7 million), I will take Kubel’s production for the price we are paying him any day of the week.
Finally, he provides a power left-handed bat in the lineup. This provides the D’backs with balance in the middle of the order. Three right handed power bats (Hill, Goldschmidt, Upton) and two left handed power bats (Kubel, Montero) from spots two through six in the order. When you have that balance, it is extremely tough for opponents to match up with you late in games. Keeping your opponent from being able to dictate the game to you is a vital tool in winning games late and the D’backs have the options to keep teams from doing that.
Keeping Jason Kubel is vital to the D’backs success this year. My hope is that Arizona GM Kevin Towers feels the same way.
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