Friday, October 29, 2010

The Twins have a Fever, and the Only Cure is More Kubel...

As Hardball Talk's Aaron Gleeman reports, it appears the Twins have picked up Jason Kubel's $5.25M option.  While I feel Kubel is a useful player in some way, I can't help but wonder if that money could be better spent elsewhere.  Kubel, primarily a designated hitter, is coming off of a season where he posted a career worst .326wOBA (+2.2 wRAA).  For a guy that's being relied upon for his ability to create offense, that's pretty bad.  This isn't really a new phenomenon for Kubel.  Outside of a good 2009 season where he seems to have benefited from a higher than expected BABIP (.327), Kubel has been a league average player ever since he became an everyday player in 2007.

People tend to overrate Kubel because he's consistently put up at least 20 HR and 80 RBI over each of the past three seasons, but he's very much an average offensive player.  He has a decent, but not great batting eye (8.9% walk rate, .335 OBP), and he provides good, but not great power (career SLG of .463, averages 28 doubles per season).  All in all, this adds up to a player worth +5-10 weighted runs above average (wRAA).  Once you factor in defense, durability, and positional adjustments, Kubel comes out to just above replacement level.  In the past four seasons, Kubel has been worth 0.8, 0.5, 3.0, 0.3 WAR (starting in 2007).  That's an average of 1.15 WAR or approximately $5M per season.  While his $5M per season value might seem to be inline with his $5.25M option for 2011 (especially for a player still theoretically in his prime), we need to realize that his average value includes an outlier (2009).  If you were to remove his 2009 season (3.0 WAR, $13.4M), you'd find that his true talent level is actually closer to 0.5 WAR, $2.3M.

While Kubel might seem like a pretty safe bet to provide adequate production out of the DH spot, there are other options out there that may end up being cheaper and more productive.  Plus, if the Twins declined the option, they might end up being able to re-sign him to a contract that's more inline with his true value.

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