Jason Kubel

Jason Kubel an odd fit, but he can help Arizona

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Adding a non-star to play left field shouldn’t have been a priority for the Diamondbacks, but I’m not buying all of the talk that Jason Kubel is a downgrade for Arizona.

That’s not to say it’s not possible. Gerardo Parra hit .292/.357/.427 in 445 at-bats and won a Gold Glove as the Diamondbacks’ primary left fielder last season. He was also 15-for-16 stealing bases. Plus, Parra is just 24 years old, suggesting that he’s only going to get better.

Kubel, on the other hand, is a 29-year-old coming off a .273/.332/.434 season. He’s undeniably a defensive downgrade, with fielding numbers that place him among the game’s worst left fielders.

It’s also not going to be easy to mix-and-match, since both players are left-handed hitters.

However, Kubel’s arrival gives an already solid top-to-bottom lineup even more depth. The Diamondbacks are now looking at Ryan Roberts, who came in at .249/.341/.427 last season, as a No. 8 hitter. Paul Goldschmidt is a threat to hit 30 homers, and he’ll probably bat seventh initially.

As for Kubel, he should be much more comfortable hitting at Chase Field than he was at Target. Kubel came in at .300/.369/.539 with 28 homers in 2009, the last year of the Metrodome. In the two seasons since, he’s hit 12 homers at home and 21 on the road. Target Field appears to be about as harsh on left-handed power hitters as any park in the game, so it’s hardly unrealistic to expect Kubel to bounce back to .280-25 HR at Chase next year.

Even so, maybe the Diamondbacks will be worse with Kubel in left field and Parra on the bench. However, they’re certainly much better equipped for an outfield injury now. With Collin Cowgill gone to Oakland, the Diamondbacks were looking at Willie Bloomquist or a minor league veteran such as David Winfree or Cole Gillespie as a fourth outfielder. Now they’re in terrific position if an outfielder goes down, particularly since Parra can slide over to center field at a moment’s notice. Kubel should also get a crash course at first base, just in case Goldschmidt disappoints.

I was pretty surprised by the Diamondbacks’ move, and it’s easy to say that the money would have been better spent elsewhere. Certainly, Hiroki Kuroda projected to add more wins on to Arizona’s total next season than Kubel does. However, the Diamondbacks ran into the same problem as the Rockies this winter: their easiest offensive spots to upgrade were second base and third base, two extremely limited markets. Interestingly enough, they ended up going the same route as the Rockies with their big signing, plucking a former Twins outfielder. The big difference here is that Arizona gave Kubel a two-year, $15 million contract, while the Rockies went to $31.5 million for three years with Michael Cuddyer.

Also, the Diamondbacks, having gone to the playoffs last year and having already upgraded their rotation with Trevor Cahill, were in much better position to make a “luxury signing” than the Rockies were. Kubel’s addition probably won’t add more than 1-2 wins to Arizona’s total next season, but those 1-2 wins could be very key. The Rockies’ signing of Cuddyer also wasn’t more than a 1-2 win upgrade, and those wins seem less likely to make the difference between going to the postseason and staying home.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.