By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
DETROIT: At one time, Jason Kubel was a prized prospect in the Minnesota Twins’ farm system.
Now he is an extra player with the Indians, as manager Terry Francona described his status Friday: “He’s a left-handed bat. I don’t know what we will do with him exactly. We’ll see how his health affects playing the outfield. If he can get a couple of big hits, he can help us.”
Added General Manager Chris Antonetti, “He could play the outfield, DH or pinch hit for us. It depends on what’s going on with the other guys and various matchups.”
The Tribe acquired Kubel from the Arizona Diamondbacks after putting in a waiver claim. It will cost the Indians a player to be named, probably someone in the low minors whom the fans and the organization won’t miss.
“The trade should be completed by the end of the season or shortly thereafter,” Antonetti said. “It could even be sooner. At this point, I’d rather not go into details about the player.”
The Diamondbacks also handed over cash to the Tribe, reportedly enough to pay the rest of Kubel’s 2013 salary (about $1.25 million) plus the $1 million it will cost to buy out his $7.5 million club option for 2014.
Does that mean Antonetti has no interest in keeping Kubel past September?
“Potentially,” Antonetti said, indicating he hasn’t made up his mind. “Right now, the focus for us is the balance of the season.”
Kubel has done nothing this year that would make him attractive to a team looking to spend $7.5 million. He is batting .220 with eight doubles, five homers and 32 RBI in 241 at-bats.
These statistics don’t jibe with the rest of his career. Kubel has hit 20 or more home runs four times with a high of 30 last year in the Arizona desert. He has driven in 90 or more runs three times, reaching a high of 103 in 2009, when he was still with the Twins.
Apparently, the effects of a knee injury sustained in the Arizona Fall League in 2004 have never completely disappeared. He also suffered a quad strain in April that led to negatively altering his hitting mechanics.
“It’s probably a combination of things,” said Antonetti when asked what led to Kubel’s sub-par season. “There are a lot of different factors. The physical component is one. And as he tried to find his swing, things snowballed.
“We know his knees are something he has to continue to manage, but he’s healthy now.”
Kubel is scheduled to join the Tribe today, which will necessitate a roster move, even though on Sunday rosters can be expanded to 40.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com.