The Chicago White Sox were rumored by CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler last week to have spoken with the Arizona Diamondbacks about Jason Kubel. While Kubel may fit a need on paper, he would be a bad fit with the White Sox.
Simply put, Kubel, a lifetime .268 hitter who averages 24 home runs and 94 RBI, would not make the White Sox a better team.
Let’s look at two potential roster scenarios—as they relate to the outfield—should the White Sox make a trade for the 30-year-old outfielder who hit 30 homers this past season.
The first situation has general manager Rick Hahn acquiring Kubel to be used as part of a platoon system with the current starters.
He could start against right-handed pitchers, for example, while Dayan Viciedo gets the nod when a lefty is on the mound. Kubel could also be called upon to spell Alex Rios in right field.
As this scenario breaks down, it is not impossible to see each outfielder get around 400 at-bats next season. And if managed correctly, it could prove to be very successful—but there is a very big catch.
The White Sox would suddenly go from being a slow team to one of the slowest teams in the American League. See, with Kubel as the team’s fourth outfielder, Jordan Danks, more than likely, does not open the season with the club.
MLBDepthCharts has him listed as the fifth outfielder, and while Danks may not be the most important player on the 25-man roster, he does provide manager Robin Ventura with the flexibility that is critical late in games.
Given how much slower and less flexible the White Sox would be in certain situations—pinch-running, for instance—Kubel makes them a less complete team.
The second possibility is that Hahn creates space in the outfield by moving one of the starters.
ESPNChicago.com’s Bruce Levine mentioned in a chat last week that unless the White Sox want to limit the amount of playing time Viciedo gets, they would have to “consider moving Rios back to center field.”
That infers that center fielder Alejandro De Aza could be traded—potentially for a left-handed-hitting infielder or a reliever. Again, it looks good on paper, but it does not improve the team.
For starters, Rios is not a very good center fielder.
During the 2011 season—his last full season in center—Rios routinely took poor angles on fly balls and looked uncomfortable for most of the year. Putting Rios in right field last season was hailed as a smart move by the White Sox.
In no small part, the move to right field contributed to the rebound season Rios enjoyed. There can be no going back.
More importantly, De Aza is a true left-handed-hitting leadoff man. Those do not come around very often. Until a replacement (not necessarily an outfielder) is ready to take that from him, De Aza should not be moved.
An argument can be made that left-handed run producers like Kubel don’t come around very often. And when they do, it is wise to grab them. To a point, that is very true.
But if De Aza was traded for Kubel and/or the team loses out on roster and situational flexibility, they do not get better. That is the point, right?
Now, this column is not saying the White Sox should not trade De Aza—or anybody else for that matter. Quite the contrary. If it will make the team more complete and as a result, more competitive, then make the deal.
Problem is that Kubel does not do either one of those.
If Hahn is sincere about trying to get away from station-to-station baseball, Kubel is not a fit.
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