12/20/11 4:41 PM EST
Kubel, D-backs finalize two-year deal
Outfielder excited to be part of young team, playing in NL
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
After going 4-for-14 with a home run, triple and double at Chase Field in a series the D-backs swept from Minnesota in May, Kubel had a good feeling about what he saw happening in Phoenix.
"My agent, Joe Wolf, was there and I said, 'This is a pretty nice place,'" Kubel recalled Tuesday on a conference call. "The ball comes off my bat here and it's a pretty talented young team. I told him then it seemed like a good place to be."
Thus, when Kubel was offered a reported two-year, $15 million deal over the weekend, he jumped at the opportunity. The deal includes a mutual option for a third year.
Kubel had spent his entire pro career in the Twins organization since he was selected in the 12th round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2000 and acknowledged Minnesota was still in contention until the end, while he also was interested in playing for the Dodgers.
"I grew up a Dodgers fan and live out there," he said. "That was probably the No. 1 choice, but this was a very, very close second. I like how close this is to home and not having to go back east anymore, which is really a pain. This a perfect situation. I can live here year-round. And, like I said, I like the way the ball comes off my bat here."
That, indeed, is an important factor for the 29-year-old outfielder, who batted .273 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs for the Twins in 2011.
Kubel hit .253 with four home runs and a .690 OPS at home in Target Field last year and .288 with an .821 OPS on the road.
"It's no secret that a lot of people didn't like to hit in Target Field," he said. "I just feel here I can use the whole field and still put up the power numbers I want to put up instead of trying to put the ball in the air so much to get it out. I tried to do that [last year] and it showed in the numbers."
Kubel also welcomes his first shot in the National League, given the absence of the designated hitter. He played 321 of his 753 career games with the Twins at DH and is eager to shed that role.
"All DH's have a routine. They go upstairs or whatever," he said. "I like to stay around and be with guys on the bench and be in the game as much as possible. But it is boring. You make an out or have an at-bat you're not happy with and you have to sit there for 45 minutes going over that at-bat until you get another chance. It was a way to get in there, but I'm happy to get to play every day."
Exactly where Kubel fits in with the D-backs will be interesting. Over his career, he's split his time between the corner outfield positions. With Arizona, it would appear he'll become the starting left fielder, with Gerardo Parra being shifted to a fourth-outfield position or possibly being used in a trade.
Parra won an NL Gold Glove Award for his work in left last season, and he hit .292 with eight homers and 46 RBIs. His ability to play all three outfield positions makes him an ideal backup. How many opportunities there will be, though, remains to be seen. Center fielder Chris Young played in 156 games last year, while right fielder Justin Upton appeared in 159.
Where will Kubel fit in?
"They're saying middle-of-the-order bat and I expect to be playing quite a bit," he said. "I'm not the fastest guy in the world, obviously, but I take a lot of pride in my defense. I work pretty hard at it. I try to make the best first step, get the best route. I think I do a pretty good job with that. I make the plays that should be made and every once in a while I get a little athletic out there and do something more."
The move was somewhat surprising in that the D-backs had not been linked in any rumors to Kubel, nor had they been rumored to be in the market for an outfielder.
"Jason is a proven left-handed hitter and corner bat who makes our offense stronger and gives us depth in the outfield," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said in a statement. "His experience will be a welcome addition to our team and in our clubhouse."
In the end, Kubel said it was "a very easy decision" once the pieces came together.
"I'm extremely excited," he said. "It's a young, talented team. I've been around that quite awhile with what we had going in Minnesota. I'm really looking forward to it."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. MLB.com reporter Steve Gilbert contributed to this report as well. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.