The Arizona Diamondbacks newest outfielder, Jason Kubel, jumped on the phone and answered questions from the local media on Tuesday just a few hours after his signing was officially announced by his new team. Kubel talked about why he had the D-backs listed so high on his free agency wish list, what he expects his role to be and how his defense will translate to Chase Field.
Jason Kubel first considered playing for the D-backs in May when he visited Chase Field as a member of the Minnesota Twins during inter-league play. He went 4-14 with a double, triple, home run and three RBI during his brief three-game visit. That was enough to leave a strong impression on the free agent to be.
Kubel told his agent at the time that he was interested in Arizona and that he liked "the way the ball comes off my bat here". It took some time for the D-backs and Kubel to come back together after initial talks went no where, but late last week GM Kevin Towers reached out and things quickly came together.
Kubel called the D-backs a "very, very close second" behind his top preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jason grew up in L.A. as a Dodgers fan and still lives there.
All the teams he spoke with were strictly for outfield jobs, "I'm not a big fan of DH. I don't like it too much. I feel more in the game in the outfield. That's what I want to do and I want to prove that I can do it."
When Kubel was signed in an apparent replacement for Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra, there were obvious questions about his defense. His reputation as a field is "average" while the advanced stats suggest he's sub par.
"Obviously, I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but I take a lot of pride in my defense," Kubel said. "I work pretty hard at it. I try to make the best first step, try to get the best route. I think I do a pretty good job at that. I'll make the plays that should be made and every now and then I get a little athletic out there and make some other ones. I take a lot of pride doing it right and making all the plays."
Defense is nice, but Jason was signed for hit bat and the biggest attraction for him in coming to Arizona is the opportunity to be a better hitter. Kubel explained why this was a good move for him:
"It's no secret that a lot of people didn't like Target Field too much, to hit there. I 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 and pull the ball in the air to get it out. I did run into trouble trying to do that stuff more often and it really showed the numbers and everything. 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 it just being an out. I'm looking forward to that."
Kubel spoke with Kevin Towers on Saturday. He expects to be a middle of the order bat in the line up that he'll be "playing quite a bit".