MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After joining Cleveland for the final month, Jason Kubel found himself in a familiar place in Minnesota when the Indians finished the regular season.
During that series with the Twins, Kubel stopped in the home clubhouse to see some of his old teammates and coaches. Manager Ron Gardenhire got to the point.
"I said, 'Why aren't you in this clubhouse?'" Gardenhire recalled. "He said, 'Well, let's talk over the winter.' And we talked."
Less than three months later, Kubel signed with the Twins. He'll be at spring training next month on a minor league contract, but if he is added to the 40-man roster he would receive a $2 million base salary. There are bonuses built in, too: $150,000 each for 300 and 350 plate appearances and $200,000 for 400 plate appearances; and $150,000 each for 30 and 60 days on the active major league roster, excluding time on the disabled list, and $200,000 for 90 days on the active major league roster.
That's an extra $1 million waiting for him if he's healthy and productive enough to re-establish himself as an everyday player.
"The guy can put some swings on the ball and put it in the seats. He can carry a ballclub," Gardenhire said. "I'm not saying he's here to do that, but I think he's going to be very valuable for us if he comes and proves that in spring training that he's still good and healthy."
Kubel isn't the only former Twins standout who's back for a second time. Shortstop Jason Bartlett was signed to a minor league deal and will be in camp vying for a spot. General manager Terry Ryan also confirmed over the weekend the team has maintained interest in two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who is recovering from a second surgery on the left shoulder that kept him out of the 2011 and 2013 seasons. Santana probably won't be ready to pitch until the summer, and he'd surely have other teams to pick from.
But the theme the Twins are following is clear: leadership ability and winning experience, two important traits they've largely lacked the last three years while losing at least 96 games each time. Bartlett and Kubel are past their prime, a decline accelerated by injuries, but if they're healthy they could help enhance the roster.
Pedro Florimon is a slick fielder, but even for a shortstop a .278 career on-base percentage won't cut it for long. If the 27-year-old wins the job again, Bartlett could still be in line for a utility spot, competing with Eduardo Escobar.