White Sox have talked about Kubel. Also had talks about Upton earlier in winter, when Diamondbacks asked about Alexei Ramirez.
— DKnobler (@DKnobler) December 22, 2012
Rumors don’t have to make sense. They don’t actually exist yet. They’re ideas, and don’t need to fit into the real-life context of the team. I can talk about pizza while eating spaghetti bolognese, even if the presence both make others wonder about my consumption levels.
Jason Kubel‘s name raises some questions about front office intentions, since he’s a not-that-great lefty bat and turns 31 next season, and the White Sox have spent the off-season slipping farther than a not-that-great lefty bat away from the Tigers.
Coming into the Winter the White Sox really weren’t in a position to stand pat and hope to compete in the AL Central. Between giving Jeff Keppinger temp-to-perm status at 3rd base and steeling themselves for the bumps in the road toward Tyler Flowers being a reliable starting catcher, the Sox have done just that. Add an above-average reliever or two to this roster, and they may field a fine, above-average pitching team, but one that hasn’t built up the offensive might to be on par with the Tigers.
Worse yet, save for perhaps the middle infield–where anyone who can hit there is practically a superstar–the White Sox offense lacks dominant pieces more than it has gaping holes.
Jason Kubel, with his rapidly escalating strikeout rate (26.4% last season), good but unremarkable power, stark platoon splits, is still a solid lefty bat with an above-average career line – .268/.337/.467. He can fill a hole, but not anchor the middle of a good batting order, and unfortunately, most lineups don’t have a hole at 1B/DH/Guy Who Can Stand In One Of The Outfield Corners But Will Drive His Center Fielder Crazy. They sometimes do, Mark Kotsay, but less often. The current iteration of the White Sox is no exception.
Or, they could be. In left field, they have Dayan Viciedo, who put up a 97 weighted-runs created (wRC+) in 2012, compared to Kubel’s 115 mark. Kubel could probably serve as a slight upgrade over Viciedo’s production in his second full year–which would be just about pointless to make an effort to acquire.
However, a platoon of these two guys, who were stalwarts against opposite-handed hitters could be extremely potent. Viciedo was .350/.391/.642 against lefties, and Kubel was .264/.348/.540 against righties. Together, that’s a left-fielder who circles the bases too much for anyone to worry if he could get on them a bit more.
That’s a fun idea for immediately maximizing production out of the left fielder slot, but “platoon-hitter” is a rather disappointing end-game to slot Dayan Viciedo into. It’d be fair enough if the Sox decided they didn’t want to commit a starting slot to Viciedo in a year where they were aggressively gunning for the division crown, but they haven’t give much indication that’s the case. It’s almost Christmas and Addison Reed is still the closer despite struggles of his own, and Tyler Flowers just got handed the catching gig. It would be odd to see youth get served, but have Dayan get denied a plate.
Not to mention the fact that Jason Kubel is under contract for $15 million over the next two seasons for the Arizona, and presumably costs something, even if the Diamondbacks perilously stacking more corner outfielders than they need squeezes away a bit of their leverage.
Kubel as a straight addition will need to be used specifically to be helpful, and could stall development of other projects. If Kubel comes in exchange for something of actual value, then the manager comforts of “lineup balance” and “a left-handed bat”, that the White Sox have been so open about coveting, might be the only areas they wind up helping.
Ok, now we’ve done it. Ripped up and criticized a move that has neither happened nor necessarily even been proposed. Now the holidays have really started.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan