In another strange move in what has been a very much against the grain season as far as roster moves are concerned, the Cleveland Indians have traded a player to be named later to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jason Kubel. Indians fans remember Kubel as a part time outfielder and DH for the Twins from 2004 through 2011. In 2012, Kubel had a stand out season (30 home runs and 90 RBI) in his first year of a two year $15 million contract. This year, however, he has struggled through 89 games, batting just .220 with five home runs on the year.
The Indians largely signed Kubel to replace Ryan Raburn during the next two series, against Detroit and Baltimore. These are the biggest series left in the season for the Tribe and they will face no left handed starters (against whom he has batted just .162). Kubel will be able to play right field and DH, providing the Indians with more flexibility than Jason Giambi can offer from the bench and will likely be used extensively until Raburn's return. In the active lineup, he should replace Drew Stubbs as an every day player, with the Indians forgoing defense and base running skills for a little extra offensive power. Of course, the trouble with this logic is that Stubbs has out slugged Kubel by 50 points so far this year.
There is little risk in adding Kubel as the Diamondbacks are paying the vast majority of his salary for the rest of the season. While the minor leaguer to be exchanged has not been named yet, it can be assumed it will be a player the Indians have deemed expendable , so there is little cost there. The Indians will have to pay the million dollar buy out if they release him at the end of the season, but will also have the right to accept his $7.5 million team option for 2014.
Matt Carson will likely be the odd man out when Kubel is added to the 25 man roster to tomorrow's game two against Detroit. If the Indians would like to see Carson in further action (I can't imagine why they would) they can bring him up in ten days with no further cost.
It turns out the PTBNL in this deal was not a low level minor leaguer with no Major League future, but was in fact, Matt Langwell, a right handed starter in Columbus who has already made an appearance with the Indians bullpen this year. While he is likely never to an All-Star or even much of a Major League starter, it seems a very steep price to pay for a one month rental of a player that was going to be released anyway. Unless Kubel pulls an amazing turn around and provides the Indians with the power they have been lacking since Mark Reynolds stopped hitting home runs in June or the Indians intend on using his 2014 option, this looks like a very poor move overall.
If there is any upside in Langwell leaving, it will be that they no longer have to protect a player that doesn't project very well and can use the innings he would have gotten in AAA next year to further develop a player with a higher ceiling like Cody Anderson.