The Diamondbacks signed Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million deal over the weekend, giving them five starting outfielders for just three spots. With Adam Eaton set to start in centerfield and both Kubel and Ross signed to free agent deals, the Diamondbacks are more likely to trade one of their outfielders than use expensive platoons. Gerardo Parra‘s name was frequently mentioned as a possible trade target last year, when the Diamondbacks similarly signed Kubel to an outfield already including Parra, Chris Young and Justin Upton, but now it seems even more likely they make a move.
While Kevin Towers hasn’t officially put Kubel on the block, he noted that his phone didn’t stop ringing with requests for his outfielders after news of the Ross signing broke.
The Phillies were strong suitors for Ross but sources suggest they never really wanted to go beyond one or two years on a deal. If the Phils were seeking Ross’s level of productivity on a short-term and less lucrative contract, they could potentially find that in the form of the now expendable Kubel, whose numbers are quite similar over the last two seasons.
I spent more words than I would have liked on Cody Ross over the past few weeks but the point was simple: Ross wanted this type of deal and that would have been a terrible investment by the Phillies.
As those posts discussed, Ross is really a platoon player with below average marks against the righties that throw 70% of the innings in a season, yet he was seeking an everyday player’s salary.
While he could certainly start for numerous teams around the league, the Phillies shouldn’t have been on that list, at least not on a lucrative three-year commitment.
He was barely more productive and consistent than an internal platoon including John Mayberry and, say, Laynce Nix, and that timeshare could have replicated 85% of Ross’s production at 20% of the cost.
It seems far-fetched to suggest that the Phils will use Nix in that role and, after non-tendering Nate Schierholtz, they don’t have anyone else to call on in this regard.
The Phillies have Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, Nix and Mayberry for the two corner outfield posts, as well as Rule 5 selection Ender Inciarte. At least one of those players wasn’t going to make the roster out of camp if the Phils stood pat. Now that Kubel is conceivably available it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Phils make a big-time push and temporarily reduce their number of outfield uncertainties.
The aforementioned platoons were the best case scenario from the standpoints of being cost-effective and realistic alternatives to a Josh Willingham deal that apparently wasn’t in the cards. The next best thing, assuming the Phillies want to pay a corner outfielder $7-$8 million for 20-30 home runs out of one player, is to try and pry Kubel away from the Diamondbacks. He has been similarly valuable to Ross over the past two seasons and has just one guaranteed year left on his contract at $7.5 million. He has a mutual option for 2014 at a similar rate but it’s wise to view this as a one-year deal.
Simply put, Kubel is Ross (and Finkle is Einhorn) on a more favorable contract.
Over the last two seasons, check out their rate numbers:
Ross: 989 PA, 9.2% K, 22.8% BB, 34.9% GB, .254/.326/.446, 109 wRC+
Kubel: 972 PA, 9.2% K, 24.4% BB, 34.2% GB, .261/.329/.476, 113 wRC+
And some of their raw totals:
Ross: 989 PA, 224 H, 60 2B/3B, 36 HR, 3.4 WAR
Kubel: 972 PA, 228 H, 56 2B/3B, 42 HR, 2.9 WAR
The major differences in their games offset. Kubel offers more power while Ross is a better fielder. Overall, they have basically been the same player since 2011, have the same approximate average annual values on their current contracts, yet one is only signed for one more guaranteed year and is on a team that could really benefit from moving him to fix a problem elsewhere.
Obvious deterrents to a trade exist. The Phillies aren’t the only potentially interested team and others may value him as more than a one-year stopgap. Those teams would pay the Diamondbacks more in prospects or major league ready players. Another is that the Diamondbacks may want to move Parra more than Kubel.
While Parra has been more valuable than both Kubel and Ross over the last few seasons, the areas in which he excels, like fielding and baserunning, aren’t as sexy as 25-30 HR power. While I would love to see him on the Phillies, it probably isn’t a fit. The Diamondbacks could also value a solid starting pitching prospect after trading away Trevor Bauer, and one year of Kubel just isn’t worth a Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan, Brody Colvin or Jonathan Pettibone, regardless of the Phils depth.
There is still plenty of time left in the offseason but if a costly year of Kubel — $7.5 mil in salary and an upper-level prospect is indeed costly — is the only viable alternative to sticking with what they have, the Phils should go into spring training with this current core of outfielders and see who sticks.
Kubel, just like Ross before him, is a slight overall upgrade on what the Phillies can do with players already on the roster. Just like Ross before him, that slight upgrade just isn’t worth the premium in salary. In Kubel’s case, while the contract is more favorable, the expense in prospects makes it similarly expensive.