PHOENIX The seed was planted here last May, when Jason Kubel knocked the ball around Chase Field with impunity, hitting for the cycle in Minnesotas three-game series. The Twins were swept, but Kubel was kind of swept away.
Pretty nice place, he told his agent, Joel Wolfe.
I like the way the ball comes off my bat. Obviously a very talented young team. I told Joel then that this would be a good place to be.
Seven months later, Kubel has landed. While he was courted by several teams in his first season of free agency this winter, the D-backs were always near the top of his wish list. The D-backs did not see a fit early in the free-agent process as they went after pitching, but after obtaining Trevor Cahill to flesh out the rotation, they took another look for a bat.
When D-backs general manager Kevin Towers showed a renewed interest last Thursday, Kubel was quick to agree to a two-year, 15 million contract to become the starting left fielder entering spring training. He will make 7.5 million in 2012 and 2013, and there is a mutual 7.5 million option in 2014. If the D-backs accept the option but Kubel declines, he will lose a 500,000 buyout.
He considers it a perfect fit, in a park that is more conducive to his line-drive, all-fields approach. Chase Field ranked as the No. 5 offensive park in the majors last season. Minnesotas Target Field was ranked in the bottom third, at No. 21.
A middle-of-the order bat in a hitters park.
Kubel, who averaged 27 doubles, 19 homers and 79 RBIs in five seasons as a regular in Minnesota, is pumped.
Its no secret that a lot of people didnt like Target Field too much to hit there. I just feel here that I can use the whole field and still put up the power numbers I want to put up instead of having to try to pull the ball in the air to get it out. I do run into trouble trying to do that stuff, Kubel said.
I think I can use the whole field here and not worry about hitting a ball that I thought I hit pretty well to center or left-center and just be an out.
The D-backs could put together a potent 3-4-5-6 of Justin Upton, Miguel Montero, Chris Young and Kubel.
Kubel was told that he will be used in the middle of the lineup and be the starting left fielder, although Towers indicated that Gerardo Parra remains a valuable piece as a fourth outfielder. Playing the field is another plus. Kubel told his winter suitors, which included Cleveland, Cincinnati and Minnesota, that he did not want to be a DH, his primary role the last two seasons.
Im not a big fan of the DH. It is boring. You make an out, you have an at-bat you are not happy with at all, then you have to sit there for about 45 minutes going over that at-bat until you do something again, he said.
It was a way to get in there and play every day, but I am more than happy to play the outfield every day. I feel more in the game in the outfield. I want to prove that I can do it. Im ready for it. Obviously Im not the fastest guy in the world. I work pretty hard at it. I try to make the best first step and get the best route. Ill make the plays that should be made. Every now and then I get a little athletic out there and make some other ones. I take a lot of pride in doing it right and making all the plays.
Kubel, 29, played in only 99 games last season because of a sprained left foot that acted up at times. He wanted to play through it, although rest was prescribed.
Things were going so well for myself and the team was struggling, I thought I would get in there and try to help out some more, and I pushed myself to go when I wasnt ready. There were a couple of setbacks here and there and I got the rest I needed, finally, he said.
Kubel grew up in Los Angeles as a Dodgers fan, but did not sense a great interest from the Dodgers this winter.
That was probably No. 1 choice, and weve had discussions with them quite a bit. Things werent moving. This was a very, very close second. I like how close it is to home. Dont have to worry about going back East any more. It is really a pain. Its the perfect situation here. The decision was very easy. We were on board as soon as he called back, Kubel said.
Kubel spent his entire career with Minnesota, an organization known for its toughness and its pride in playing the game the right way. He saw a similar attitude in his short time here last year.
Its a young talented team, and Ive been around that for quite a while with what we had going in Minnesota. I hope I fit in really well with the guys, he said.
I grew up playing with all the guys in Minnesota. It will be tough to move on. Thats part of the game, part of the business.Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter