According to Jerry Crasnick’s Twitter feed, the Mets are bringing back let’s-call-him-a-first-baseman-because-he-can’t-possibly-play-anywhere-else Mike Jacobs as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.
Jacobs broke into the majors as a Met in 2005, and promptly put up Pujols-like numbers. In 112 plate appearances, Jacobs went .310/.375/.710. And while no one in his/her right mind expected that to continue, he was a welcome offensive boost in comparison to the team’s regular first baseman that season, Doug Mientkiewicz. But Jacobs never got the chance to prove himself as a Met, and he was shipped off to Florida during that offseason as part of a package that netted the Mets’ Carlos Delgado.
With Jacobs, what you see is what you get. The guy looks like he swings for the fences no matter the pitch type, location, or count. And that’s what he does and likely all he ever will do. He doesn’t take walks, he strikes out a ton, he doesn’t hit for average, can’t run, and can’t field. He hits home runs. That’s Mike Jacobs.
So naturally, way too many people have confused him for a good player. Yes, he hit 32 HRs in 2008. But he also posted a downright poor batting average of .248 to go along with a .299 OBP. You need to hit a lot more than 32 dingers to make up for that lack of production.
And regardless of what evaluation tool you use, Jacobs is a bad defender. Period. Like advanced metrics? His UZR went from bad to terrible during his stay in Florida, finishing with a negative 19.4. Plus/minus data tells the same story, with him giving up twenty more runs than the average first baseman in 2008. If fielding % is your bag, then just know that he had a .988 FPCT, tied for last in MLB in 2008.
You may be wondering why I’m expressing such negativity over a minor league deal. He’s not guaranteed a roster spot, and he’s being paid the league minimum. This is true. But consider the potential outcomes:
- Jacobs beats out Daniel Murphy for the starting gig: When I’m hoping that Daniel Murphy – he of the career .768 OPS – will start the majority of games, clearly, there is a problem. Sure, Murph doesn’t have the power potential of Jacobs. But he will, god willing, post a much better AVG and OBP than Jacobs could while providing at least a decent glove defensively.
- Jacobs remains on the team as a bench player: The Mets will likely carry 12 pitchers for most of the season, leaving 13 spots for positional players. Eight will obviously be taken up by starters, leaving five bench spots. One of them will be the back up catcher (Henry Blanco?) Gary Matthews Jr. (ugh) will be the fourth OFer, and Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis will most likely be the infielders. So would you give that last spot to a player incapable of playing defense and can’t hit lefties like Jacobs? Would the Mets feel comfortable with Matthews and Tatis as their only “viable” (wink, wink) OF options?
- Jacobs gets sent down to the minors (and doesn’t throw a hissy fit): This may actually be the worst scenario, believe it or not. Over the past year or so, the Mets have made a concerted effort to (gasp!) develop their own players from within. So through drafting and trading, the Mets have compiled a pretty decent group of players capable of seeing time as a big-league first basemen. Ike Davis in particular, has become the organization’s top positional prospect. Davis is expected to start the year in AAA-Buffalo… Which is where Jacobs would be if he’s sent down. In addition to Davis, Buffalo is also expected to find playing time for Nick Evans, journeyman (and blogger Ted Berg’s favorite) Val Pascucci, and Chris Carter – all of whom are also candidates to play first. Quite frankly, any of those guys probably have a better chance at helping the club over the short and long term than Jacobs.
- Jacobs gets cut: You can probably tell by now that in my estimation, this would be my preference. He’s a one-dimensional player vying for a spot on a team that needs more from him than can be fairly expected. Besides, this will let Jacobs pursue what I believe is his life calling – to become a professional wrestler (tell me he does not look the part).
Seeing as I don’t expect that the Mets, as presently constructed, will be much of a threat to Philly or Atlanta in the divisional race this year, I can live with Jacobs on the 25-man roster. But if he gets sent down to AAA, I’m afraid that meaningless ABs given to him will hinder the development of younger players who still have a chance to be useful cogs in the future. Jacobs is 29 years old and has shown no signs of improving upon the areas that are required for him to become a good MLB caliber player. The Mets should be making room for the next group of players.