Twins should have cut Kubel loose

January, 28, 2009
Jason Kubel's a pretty good hitter, and at 26 he's still got a bit of room for improvement. So locking him up for the next two or three years must be a good thing, right? Not if you ask Dave Cameron

    The Twins avoided arbitration with Jason Kubel yesterday, signing him to a two-year contract that the Star-Tribune claims is for about $7 million and contains a team option for 2011 that is worth $5 million. So, the deal is either 2/7 or 3/12 for Kubel's final two years of arbitration or his two arb years and his first year of free agency. Most people will probably consider that a good deal for the Twins -- getting a useful bat under team control for reasonable prices without a long term commitment.

    I'm not so sure. As R.J. noted this morning, the Pirates just signed Eric Hinske to a one-year deal worth between $1 [million] and $2 million. In what world is Jason Kubel a significnatly better player than Eric Hinske?


    Yes, Hinske's five years older, but MLB is full of players with that skillset. Minnesota could have just used Hinske this year, then found his clone next winter, and so on and so forth. Same reward with none of the associated risk that goes with multiyear contracts.

    I know, I know, it's only $7 million over two years. But it's a needless use of resources. The Twins' budget isn't that of the Yankees or Red Sox, so to contend, they need to maximize the return on all the dollars they spend. Especially in this economic climate, where good players can't find contract offers, giving a multiyear deal to Jason Kubel doesn't maximize the return.

Hinske was worth around $9 million last year; Kubel was worth around $2 million. That difference is due largely to the fact that Hinske can play the outfield passably, while Kubel is (or should be) restricted exclusively to DH duties. It's not that Kubel isn't a useful player. It's that useful players needn't cost $3.5 million per season. Especially not in today's econonomic climate.

If Jason Kubel were a free agent, it's not likely that the Twins would have thrown $7 million (or $12 million) his way. But Kubel's been a Twin for nearly nine years, and after nearly nine years (and a knee surgery or two) it's not easy to cut a guy loose. Especially a fairly productive guy. Even when the numbers say that's exactly what you should do.


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