I’ll level with people a bit; it’s part of my job to discuss the various trade rumors out there regarding the Baltimore Orioles. Whether any of them have any sea legs underneath them is another story, but the fact is that the rumors are out there. The latest one involves Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfielder Jason Kubel. The O’s were hot on him earlier in the off season, however at the time they felt that Arizona’s asking price was too high. As time has gone on, apparently the asking price for Kubel has come down. The rumor now is that Arizona will look to trade either Kubel or Justin Upton by the end of this week.
On one hand, Kubel hit a career-high 30 home runs last year. On the other hand, he struck out a career-high 151 times as well, and is only a .268 career hitter. He comes across as a version of Mark Reynolds, albeit perhaps a bit less streaky. The Orioles would probably have to give up a player in order to get Kubel, as I suspect a prospect wouldn’t do the job. Might Wilson Betemit be included in a potential deal? Anything’s possible I suppose, however I would caution Dan Duquette for one reason regarding Wilson Betemit: versatility. Betemit can play in the outfield if need be, and he can also play either first or third base. If Chris Davis struggles at first like he did out of the shoot last year, Betemit might be a guy that could start to get some reps at first base. If Betemit’s in Arizona, that wouldn’t be possible.
Who knows if Betemit’s even on the table in a potential trade, however I’m just speculating that perhaps a veteran such as him (and maybe a low level prospect) might get the job done. I also think that someone like Betemit would make sense to send because the Orioles currently have a pretty crowded outfield. Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Nate McLouth, and Betemit (who can also play infield)…add in Jason Kubel without removing one of those guys and you might really have a logjam.
More realistically Arizona might be interested in some of the Orioles’ young pitching, and of course Dan Duquette has been hesitant to part with pitching. If pitching is a deal-breaker, it could be contingent on whether or not the O’s are able to resign Joe Saunders. An arm like Saunders would give the Orioles the liberty to perhaps consider moving a pitcher such as a Jake Arrieta perhaps. Again, this is not to say that Arrieta or any pitcher is involved in a potential deal, however I do know that he’s a guy in whom other teams have expressed interest in the past.
For the record, Kubel would be under team control for 2013 with a team option for 2014, and he’s only due $8 million this year. That’s a pretty team-friendly contract. I also mentioned some of Kubel’s stats above. As I said, he’s kind of a light version of Mark Reynolds. However here’s something else to consider; for his career, Kubel has an OBP of .334 (.327 in 2012). In 2012 the Orioles’ team OBP was only .311, so in terms of getting on base he would add something to this lineup. The flip side of that is that getting on base doesn’t mean much unless you score, however that’s more contingent on the people coming up behind you in the order than anything else. So ultimately I suppose you’re wondering whether or not this is a move I think the Orioles should make. There are pros and cons to every move, however this might be just the kind of trade the Orioles have been looking for. Arizona would be hard-pressed to ask for the likes of Hardy, Bundy, Machado, etc, for Kubel. If they could get away with dealing someone like Wilson Betemit, I’d jump at that. If it was someone like Arrieta that was being requested from the Orioles, I’d probably think long and hard about it and ultimately see if I couldn’t get a low level pitching prospect as well. Time will tell…as I said, Arizona is hoping to have either Kubel or Justin Upton dealt by the end of the week. But in baseball, what do deadlines really mean?!
UPDATE (10 AM) - According to various reports, Arizona has agreed in principle to a deal that would send Justin Upton to Atlanta. I suspect that means they’d be holding onto Kubel, or at the very least be asking for more in return (including an outfielder). If Arizona wasn’t interested in the aforementioned Wilson Betemit, might the Orioles be able to sell them on Xavier Avery? Time will tell.