The Hot Stove is starting to gather some warmth, as a couple of Royal trade rumors are kicking this winter off in style. And the World Series isn't even over yet!
The first rumor had the Royals involved in a deal for Florida's Mike Jacobs, which allegedly fell apart when the Marlins weren't happy with the medical results from the minor-league pitcher they were going to receive.
On one hand, it's easy to see why the Royals would be interested in Jacobs. He was part of that powerful Marlin infield—each regular hit more than 29 bombs—and Jacobs finished with a career-high 32.
There are a few things to like about Jacobs. For starters, he's young and cheap. He turns 28 next week and is arbitration eligible after making just a shade under $400,000 last year. Yes, that means he'll get a raise, but it should be a modest one. It also means he would be under the Royals control for at least the next three seasons.
The other thing to like (or love, if you're the Royals and need someone with power) is the fact the guy can hit some home runs. In his last full season in the minors in 2005, he hit 25 homers and slugged .589 for Double-A Binghamton in the Mets' organization.
Even after pretty much skipping Triple-A, the power has been been there for Jacobs. Here's his slugging percentage since he moved to Florida:
It should be noted that, in 2007, he played roughly 13 games with a broken thumb before he went on the DL in mid-May. Somehow, he still managed to slug .500 during that time, but it took a while to shake the rust off once he returned to the team for good at the end of June. Over the second half of '07, he hit 12 home runs and slugged .478.
I probably don't need to tell you this, but here are the slugging percentages for all Royal first basemen since that time:
Jacobs' power is legit, and it would be a significant upgrade over what the Royals have rolled out there over the last three years.
But...And there's always a but...His OBP kind of sucks. Well, not kind of. It really, really sucks. Sigh.
And for comparison sake, here's how Royal first basemen have done in OBP:
You just can't have everything, can you?
It presents a conundrum. The Royals have a problem getting on base. It cost their hitting coach his job and some players will bee on the move as well. Those are the facts.
Another fact is the Royals have no power in their lineup. Zero. Zilch. When Jose Guillen is your "big bopper" and he's hitting 20 home runs, that's a problem.
My gut reaction to this trade was one of relief when I heard it fell through. But that was mainly based on Jacobs' OBP. Looking a little closer at the numbers, he has some power that can truly help this team.
Then there's his defense, which is below average at first and the fact his splits are rather extreme.
Vs RHP: .257/.315/.542
Vs LHP: .218/.248/.429
It's an issue in that it makes him a less-than-complete player.
In my mind, he's probably not the ideal solution, but he's still a good one, with some value. If he's truly the best option, I hope the Royals and Marlins can get together and revisit this deal.
Then there was the rumbling Bob Dutton reported this weekend that the Royals are talking to the Indians about sending Mark Teahen to Cleveland. The names rumored to be on the short list include Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez, and minor leaguer Trevor Crowe. It sounds like a straight up, one-for-one deal.
That means the question is: Which do you like?
Just looking at the two guys who have major-league service time, Francisco has hit for more power and has shown a greater ability to get on base. Last year was really the first full year where both players could be considered regulars, although Gutierrez came off the bench a little more. Francisco had 499 plate appearances and Gutierrez 440.
Gutierrez has more power than he showed last season, but for some reason wasn't hitting the ball out of the park. His FB rate was steady from '07 to '08, but his HR/FB rate fell from 16 percent in '07 to six percent last season. In the minors, he slugged .462 for his career but only hit more than 12 home runs in a full season one time—and that was back in 2003 in High-A. He's been more of the gap-to-gap type of hitter.
For his minor-league career, Francisco has slugged .459, nearly identical to Gutierrez. But unlike Gutierrez, Francisco is an extreme fly-ball hitter, putting the ball in the air almost 48 percent of the time. And with a HR/FB rate of nine percent, it's easy to see how he out-homered Gutierrez by a 15-to-eight mark.
Another factor here is age and service time. Francisco has just two years of service time compared to Gutierrez's three, but Francisco is just one year older.
That brings us to Crowe. He opened last season in Double-A and earned a promotion after he hit .323/.404/.485. In 35 games in Triple-A, he hit .274/.350/.486. Those are some tasty OBP numbers, but he's turning 25 next month, which makes him a shade on the elderly side to be getting his first taste of Triple-A. But he's a switch hitter with a little bit of speed, so you can see why GMDM may have an interest.
The Indians have a log jam in the outfield thanks to the Sabathia deal that got them Matt LaPorta, and they have a need at third base. I shed no tears hearing the Teahen rumors. I'm more an more convinced that his great run in '06 was a fluke, and he is destined for a career as a versatile utility man.
Personally, of the three names mentioned, I would go with Francisco. A better walk rate and more home-run power tip the scales in his favor. How about you?