Jason Kubel and the Twins' DH Problem

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IOctober 13, 2008

The fact of the matter is that the Twins should never have had the DH problem that has plagued them over the last few years.

Imagine the Twins lineup in 2006, but instead of the unholy platoon of Jason Tyner, Rondell White, Phil Nevin, and Ruben Sierra, the Twins had simply kept David Ortiz. Yes, they made the playoffs anyway, but Ortiz's 1049 OPS would have been a nice bonus.

The Twins gave up on Ortiz and paid dearly for it. Not only did Ortiz turn into the preeminent DH of the time, but the Twins haven't found a league average replacement for him.

Until this season.

Jason Kubel was one of just four players to earn eligibility at the DH position, and was fifth among all designated hitters in OPS. He hit just three home runs fewer than Ortiz, led all designated hitters in triples, and was generally near average in most other categories.

So Jason Kubel has finally ended Ortiz's faux-curse of the Twins' DHs, right? So why is so much ink being spilled on why the Twins should or should not trade Jason Kubel?

The first camp, captained by Andrew Kneeland, is more than willing to sell high on Kubel. Certainly there is wisdom here, sell high after Kubel's biggest HR year, move Cuddyer to DH, and leave the outfield as it was for most of the end of the season.

Not only does this strategy solve the the Twins' too many outfielders-too few positions problem, but Kubel would probably bring back a reasonable player in return. If he was packaged with a starter, he might even help solve the Twins' third base vacancy.

The other side of the issue, as espoused by Nick Nelson, sees in Kubel much of what the Twins gave up in Ortiz. Not necessarily a perennial MVP candidate in the making, but a young hitter that has shown a good amount of power. Kubel was second on the Twins in home runs, second in triples, third in RBI, and fourth in OPS.

Losing that production alone would be hard for this team, let alone the potential he might have.

While there is no certainty in the belief that Kubel's best years are ahead of him, there is a good chance that this is the case. Another factor to consider is that Kubel is one of a handful of Twins' who will get a raise through arbitration this year.

The Twins should learn from the Ortiz debacle and should not release Kubel. Then again, no one is advocating that, thankfully.

The Twins shouldn't give away Kubel because they can. Yes, they have enough warm bodies, but his production is good enough to have in the lineup on a daily basis, even if he never hits the 40 home runs many Twins  fans expect that he could.

However, if Kubel is named as part of a package deal for a player like Adrian Beltre, Brian Roberts, or Garrett Atkins, the Twins should be more than willing to part with him. Dustin Martin may well become a better hitter as Kubel is now, and he'll be cheaper and younger when he gets to the majors. In the mean time, Kubel can be replaced at DH by Delmon Young and the Twins don't miss a beat.

While I don't see Kubel becoming nearly as good as Ortiz (Kubel never hit more than 17 home runs in the minors, while Ortiz frequently hit over that and maxed out at 30), he could certainly be a piece of a playoff team in the future. So, while I think trading Kubel is a fine solution to a number of the Twins problems, I don't see him being a guy the Twins should be looking to lose for 30 cents on the dollar.