On October 30, the first MLB trade of the offseason was made when the Marlins sent first baseman Mike Jacobs to the Royals for relief pitcher Leo Nunez. The motives for making this move were different for both teams: the Marlins seemingly wanted to dump Jacobs because he's now arbitration eligible and acquire a cheap, serviceable reliever at the same time, while the Royals felt Nunez was expendable and wanted to add a first baseman with some pop.
Nunez should be a reliable addition to a Marlins bullpen that posted a solid 4.04 ERA last season. He's only 25 years old, and he put up pretty good numbers in 2008: 4-1, 2.98 ERA, .249 BAA, .660 OPS against. Plus, Nunez made $405,000 in 2008 and will make about the same in 2009, which is important for a team like the Marlins that doesn't spend much money.
Jacobs, 28, on the other hand, is due for a significant raise from his $395,000 2008 salary; he'll probably be rewarded a few million in arbitration. Last season, he batted .247 with 32 home runs, and a .813 OPS -- decent numbers.
Unfortunately, Jacobs's numbers don't belong with the top power hitting first basemen in the league. Out of all eligible first basemen, Jacobs was tied for eighth in home runs. The following players (most HR first) were ahead of him: Ryan Howard, Carlos Delago, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, and Jason Giambi -- not a bad group of players to be listed with. But Jacobs didn't (and doesn't) get on base nearly as much as the rest of these power hitters; in 2008, Jacobs had an awful .299 OBP (his career OBP is only .318). The closest player to that mark was Howard at .339 -- 40 points higher. Jacobs, like the rest of the group (except for Pujols and Teixeira), struck out over 100 times, but he also had the fewest walks (36). Cabrera was closest to Jacobs with 56 walks -- 20 more. Because of his low OBP, Jacobs ranked last among those players in OPS, which was more than 58 points below anyone else's.
Is it going out on a limb to say that Jacobs is not one of the league's top first basemen? Of course not. But then why are the Royals trading away a cheap, young, solid reliever for an average first baseman who hits home runs but doesn't get on base very much?
Maybe the Royals know something that no one else does.