Friday, October 31, 2008

The word on the Mike Jacobs-Leo Nunez trade

You've heard? Mike Jacobs, nee Florida first baseman and now Kansas City's DH (we can only assume), was acquired in a deal that sent reliever Leo Nunez to the Marlins.

When we first heard about this we thought it was a fair trade: neither guy is perfect, making both of them expendable, and both are more valuable on their new clubs than their old ones, though for different reasons (the Marlins hate guys who make seven-digit salaries; that they still win around 80 games every year with their anemic payroll is a testament to club's front office, which is more potent, in my opinion, than even Oakland's, and how GM Larry Beinfest doesn't win Executive of the Year every year is beyond me).

A quick stroll through the Royals blogosphere, however, revealed roughly a 65/35 split against the trade, which shocked me. I understand that it's an attractive prospect for some folks, like Rany and Royals Review, to criticize this deal: Jacobs is exactly the sort of player that allows them to snap into analyzing mode and break down all his flaws, point out how he doesn't walk a lot, how he'll be more expensive now than before, etc. etc., and criticism always makes for more interesting writing. Here's the thing: we already know he's not perfect. We can read from the second paragraph of Dick Kaegel's news story (linked above) that Jacobs's OBP was a paltry .299 last season. But that's not the point: the Royals aren't expecting Mike Jacobs to be Mark Teixeira. They expect him to improve from years past -- and he should, considering his age and Major League experience -- and to be an upgrade over the Royals' current crop of corner infields.

Is there risk involved? Sure. But let's not blow things out of proportion here. Suddenly Dayton Moore's incompetent because he dared to trade for a young power hitter?

I like this trade, and like Clark Fosler of Royals Authority, I also would've done it. Consider these three points:

  1. All the Royals gave up was a reliever, and a middle reliever at that, and an inconsistent one, and one prone to injury.

    Here's how reliable relievers are in the Major Leagues: the 2007 Cleveland Indians' bullpen, anchored by Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis and Joe Borowski, posted a 3.73 ERA, fourth best in the league. This past year's Cleveland Indians' bullpen of roughly the same guys -- with Betancourt closing to begin the season and Perez as the setup man, minus weak-link Borowski and adding high-profile Japanese free agent Masahide Kobayashi -- posted a 5.11 ERA, which was exceeded only by the Texas Rangers in crapitude.

    Look at the Tigers' bullpen woes. Look at the Mets. Look at the Rays, which came into this season with only two established guys -- Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival, who are supposed to be in their decline phases -- yet ended up having the third best relievers' ERA in the AL. You realize former Royal J.P. Howell, a guy who has consistently sucked over the course of his baseball career, suddenly posted a 200 ERA+ and became one of Tampa's most dependable relievers? Who can project these things?

    Here's the point: relievers are fungible, through and through. It wasn't too long ago that the Royals had the absolute worst bullpen in the league and looked liked they'd never get their act together. How long did it take Dayton Moore to get that turned around? Half a season? One at the most.

  2. Jacobs is young, hasn't peaked, is relatively inexpensive even in his arbitration years (3 to 3.5 million) and instantly becomes the Royals' best home run threat. You understand the Royals haven't had a 30-HR guy since Jermaine Dye's 33 in... you ready for this? ... 2000. The year freakin' 2000! No one wants to admit they play for the three-run home run, but no one wants to live with the prospect that they have no chance of ever hitting a three-run home run. (I understand the Royals hit plenty of three-run home runs last season, but you understand my point.)

    As Craig Brown of Royals Authority pointed out, "[Jacobs] homered once every 14.9 at bats, which ranked 10th in the Majors and among first basemen trailed only Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols."

  3. The Royals would otherwise enter spring training with a glaring weakness at either 1b or DH -- we're assuming Billy Butler will fill one but not both of those roles (I, unlike Rany, do not believe he has played his last game as a Kansas City Royal, and I'm disappointed that someone with as much mainstream journalistic legitimacy as Rany would devote five paragraphs to why Butler is so great and GMDM would essentially be an idiot to unload him, even at the right price, on nothing more than a hunch) -- as anyone who believes Ryan Shealy or Kila Ka'aihue is ready, right now, to play 140 games at the corner infield is kidding themselves. They could be ready by March, and maybe one or both of them will win a roster spot, but as of this instant both are merely Major League replacement-level players. Ka'aihue could use a full season in Omaha, and Shealy... well, who knows? He had one good month and suddenly everyone believes he's part of the corner infield of the future. (Okay, I admit: that's what I wrote in this blog's third-ever entry, but that was so 2007.)

    The other guy, Ross Gload, isn't worth mentioning. We can only assume he will not be the Opening Day starter.

The arguments against the deal are sensible, but, again, let's keep some perspective. I have a hard time understanding why this deal is such "a terrible idea," and, frankly, don't know how anyone can say so with such impunity -- other than, of course, because all bloggers reserve the right to be as big or small of a jackass as we please, and lest we forget, we are all jackasses.

Welcome to Kansas City, Mike. We at IDWT embrace you with open arms.

Although... you could draw a few more walks next year. Just sayin'.

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