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.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.