|Less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the World Series, the Marlins and Royals kickstarted the offseason trade market by exchanging young veterans. Kansas City acquired first baseman Mike Jacobs from Florida for righthanded reliever Leo Nunez.|
|The Big Leaguers|
|Jacobs, who will be 28 next season, clubbed a career-high 32 home runs for the Marlins in 2008. The lefthanded slugger was available in trade, though, for two key reasons: 1) the rest of his game, outside of hitting for power, is quite limited, and 2) he’s eligible for arbitration this offseason, which figures to push his salary well beyond the roughly $400,000 he earned in 2008. The Marlins also have arbitration-related decisions to make on several other core players, including Kevin Gregg, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Olsen, Dan Uggla and Josh Willingham.
A 38th-round pick by the Mets in 1999 out of Grossmont (Calif.) JC, Jacobs got his shot at regular big league play in 2006, after he’d been traded by New York to the Marlins in the Carlos Delgado trade. A steady power source for the Fish, Jacobs has hit 80 home runs and slugged .498 in four big league seasons, but his on-base percentage in that time stands at just .318 and he’s yet to figure our lefties, batting .235/.275/.414 versus them in 338 career plate appearances. He’s not much of a runner, either, and he’s a comfortably below-average defender at first base.
Nunez, 25 next season, had bounced between the majors and minors in his three previous years with the Royals. But he stuck around all year in 2008, going 4-1, 2.98 with 26 strikeouts and 15 walks in 48 1/3 innings. He joined the organization in 2004, coming over in a December trade with the Pirates for Benito Santiago. Though he’s just 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Nunez mixes easy 92-94 mph heat with a solid slider and changeup, but he’s been far more effective against righthanded batters in his career, as he’s limited them to .270/.317/.405 averages in 394 plate appearances. He’s been much tougher in the past two seasons, though, allowing a .574 OPS to same-siders in 2008 and a .643 figure in 2007.
|Trading Jacobs now allows the Marlins to shift either left fielder Willingham or third baseman Jorge Cantu to first base—or possibly install there rookie Gaby Sanchez, the Southern League’s MVP in 2008. Nunez also could help fill high-leverage innings in the Florida bullpen, whether or not the team retains its incumbent closer Gregg.
Among AL teams, only the Twins hit fewer home runs than the Royals in 2008, making a 30-home run threat like Jacobs all the more attractive. However, acquiring Jacobs does muddy the club’s first-base picture. Kansas City already has on its 40-man roster four other candidates to play first base: Billy Butler, Ross Gload, Kila Ka’aihue and Ryan Shealy.