Most of the Twins bloggers and sports writers I’ve read recently have all but written off the return of Kubel to the Twins in 2012. They may have more direct knowledge than I about this, but it seems to me a good case can be made that he will be back.
First, he has been a productive hitter and being younger than Cuddyer he is more likely to continue to be productive over the period of a longer term contract. He has already proven he can hit as a DH or when he plays in the field – an important attribute for an American League player.
Second, there are no guarantees that Span, Mauer, and Morneau will all return to form next season. In fact, it is more likely that at least one of them continues to struggle or even ends up out of baseball. The extended absence of Mauer and/or Morneau especially would mean Kubel’s bat from the left side would continue to be welcomed in the lineup whether at DH or as a corner outfielder.
Third, Kubel is not a negative presence in the clubhouse. All reports I’ve read indicate he is quiet, but a positive influence. As time goes on his “leadership” will be demonstrated more by example than by being vocal in the dugout.
Fourth, because he is such a low profile player in the league, it is possible that he will not draw as much attention in the free agent market as we expect. If that happens, his best deal might be the one the Twins offer him. He has indicated the preference of returning and if the offers to leave are not overly attractive, he may choose the known over the unknown.
Yet if other writers are correct, the Twins may favor re-signing Cuddyer for all the intangibles he brings. Also, they may believe some of the younger outfielders are closer to ready than I do. And they may be more confident that the left handed power bats will return to form next year. Or, they may be reserving the DH slot for Morneau and Mauer leaving less playing time for Kubel.
I like Kubel. I like his style as well as his production at the plate. Although he does not have speed and therefore his range is limited, he is a reliable outfielder with a strong, accurate arm who catches everything he gets to. The latter cannot be said of several of the other Twins outfielders.
Even though I would like to see him in a Twins uniform again in 2012, if he ends up elsewhere I wish him well and hope he lands in a hitters’ ballpark where he can produce numbers that will show his value.