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Kansas City Royals Fans: Why All the Angst Over Mike Jacobs?

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Kansas City Royals Fans: Why All the Angst Over Mike Jacobs?

Yes, I believe there is a rather large amount of angst in Royals nation over the recent acquisition of Mike Jacobs from the Florida Marlins. There have been commenters to this site—good commenters who are genuinely upset about the trade. Columnists whom I respect and read often on other sites, be it local (Royals Review, Rany) or national (Keith Law), who have panned the deal.

To be honest, that Dayton Moore traded an oft-injured middle reliever for a player who at least has the potential to be an everyday player has caused so much consternation caught me by surprise. The concerns seem to fall into several categories:

 

1.  Oh my, God!  We traded away Leo Nunez!

To be fair, there has not been a lot of this, but I have read at least a handful of various discussion board posts that worry about the possibility of "Leo Nunez becoming great." 

It is possible, given that Nunez has a lively, 95 mph fastball. It is also possible that Nunez, who has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons, might not throw 20 innings next year. 

Let's be clear, if the criteria of a trade is that the Royals never trade away a player who gets better for someone else, then the Royals will never make a trade. Besides, opposing batters hit 100 points higher against Nunez after the break than they did before the All Star break.

 

2.  Jacobs' power will not translate into home runs in Kaufmann Stadium.

I don't know, a pissed off, injury-riddled Jose Guillen hit 20 homers for the Royals last season, not far off his career average, so it is not like it is impossible to hit homers in Kansas City.

More importantly, did you realize that the left-handed hitting Jacobs played in a home park the last three years that was 345 feet down the right-field line? That's 15 feet further than Kaufmann. 

In addition (and yes, I am aware that the fence falls away from 330 feet in a hurry), Dolphins Stadium was 385 feet to right-center (five feet less than Kaufmann) and essentially an identical 410 feet to dead center.  

If nothing else, Jacobs will not step to the plate for the first time next April and think the fence is any farther away than usual.

 

3.  Jacobs is in decline.

In terms of on-base percentage, yes. In terms of slugging, no. Combined into the old trusty OPS and Jacobs' 2008 mark of .813 is a career high...and 93 points higher than the combined first basemen for the Royals last season. Sure, that number is not all that great for first basemen, but the Royals did get him for a 150-pound relief pitcher.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that after posting a batting-average-on-balls-in-play of .295 and .311 in his first two years with the Marlins, Jacobs' BABIP dropped to .260 in 2008. Assuming that number pushes back up to the league average of .300 next year, Jacobs could easily end up hitting .280 with a .325 on-base percentage.

 

4.  Dayton Moore said the Royals would improve their OBP and Mike Jacobs is an OBP disaster.

Yes, he did, and yes, he is (but keep in mind what I just wrote above with regard to BABIP). If you read my series on on-base percentage two weeks ago, you will also know that Jacobs has never really shown an aptitude to be a big "on-base" guy and hence, as we learned, is not going to suddenly become Jim Thome. That said, if Jacobs can get back to a .320 on-base percentage and slug .510, the Royals are going to be an improved offensive team.

As for Moore, just because he wants (hell, NEEDS to) improve the club's on-base abilities does not mean that every move he makes has to address that situation, does it

Oh, by the way, Royals' first basemen walked 38 times in 162 games last year, while Mike Jacobs walked 36 in 141 games...and hit 18 more home runs than the combined KC first sackers.  

 

5. Mike Jacobs is a bad defensive first baseman.

Really?! A team that has finished above .500 once since 1994 is worried about defense at first base? Listen, Mike Jacobs may be a disaster at the plate next year and make us all start checking Leo Nunez's stats, but condemning this trade because Jacobs is a bad defender at the least important defensive position on the field is not all that logical. Besides, how much did playing a good defensive first baseman the past three years (two of Gload and one of Mientciwicz) help the team?

 

6. His power is a fluke.

Is not.

Okay, seriously, his 32 home runs is a dramatic improvement over 20 in 2006 and 17 in 2007, but Jacobs did miss a month with a bad wrist in 2007. Plus, almost every hitter I can think of that had wrist problems fought them all season and their numbers paid the price because of it. Note;  that is not a scientific analysis, just my recollection of four or five guys (going back to Andres Galarragga) who had wrist injuries one season and, when finally healthy, jacked a bunch of homers the next. 

 

7.  Acquiring Jacobs means Dayton Moore is going to trade Billy Butler.

...or at least cut into his at-bats.

While it is no secret that some parts of the Royals' organization have become disillusioned with young Mr. Butler, I think the above may be a bit of conspiracy theory run wild. I mean, doesn't that premise imply that Moore must also prefer Ryan Shealy over Butler? I don't think any of us believe that is the case.

Assuming that Butler is on the move, then isn't this debate best saved for when we see who the Royals trade Butler for?  

Frankly, I simply do not see this happening. At 22 years old, Butler simply cannot be that annoying. It would seem to me that Jacobs will play first, Butler will DH, and Ryan Shealy will get some at-bats spelling either or both...If he is on the roster at all in 2009. 

 

In summary...

Unlike a lot of other writers, almost all of whom I respect, I actually like this trade. I don't think that Mike Jacobs will turn into Ryan Howard, nor do I think he, by himself, adds 10 wins to the team.

I fully admit that Mike Jacobs is probably as likely to go .220/.270/.430 as he is to go .285/.330/.550, but considering what the team gave up, isn't having a guy who at least might hit 30 homers worth the risk?

In the end, the Royals traded away Leo freaking Nunez, and the players most likely to be hurt by the move are named Gload, Shealy, and Kaaihue. So, why all the angst?

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