Mike Jacobs Returns to Mets

mike-jacobs-metsAfter four seasons away from Flushing, Mike Jacobs returns to the Mets.

Jacobs signed a minor-league contract with the Mets, and though I’ve always been a huge fan of his and happy to see his return, it seems like a strange acquisition.

For one, the Mets already have two lefthanded-hitting first basemen in Daniel Murphy and Chris Carter, and Jacobs doesn’t project to be appreciably better than either of those options. His one tool is the ability to hit the ball over the fence; the rest of his game is ordinary at best — for a first baseman.

However — as I suggested back in early December — Jacobs would have much more value as a catcher. It’s too perfect a solution for both the catcherless Mets and the quickly dwindling career of Jacobs, though, to happen. The Mets don’t have the chutzpah to suggest it, and Jacobs might not want to go back behind the dish. Such a return wouldn’t be unprecedented — Robert Fick, for example, extended his big-league career by 2-3 years making such a move from right field, and Brandon Inge was a semi-regular catcher for the Tigers in 2008 after not squatting for almost four years.

If such a fantasy turned true, the Mets would have an almost acceptable tandem behind the plate. There are many fans who sincerely believe that Josh Thole should be platooning with Henry Blanco come Opening Day. For those wearing the rose-colored glasses, may I suggest that if Jacobs were willing to don the tools of ignorance again, he’d immediately be on par with or possibly be ahead of Thole in terms of defense. Jacobs wasn’t a great defensive catcher, but he wasn’t godawful, either — and he was a backstop going all the way back to little league. His defensive development was stunted by a shoulder injury in his early 20s and the fact that the Mets’ organization was loaded with good young catchers in the early 2000s (Justin Huber, Vance Wilson, Jason Phillips, Joe Hietpas). With better backstops in the system and a hole at 1B, it made sense to move Jacobs out from behind the plate and fast-track his bat to the bigs.

Enough with the fantasy though … I honestly do not believe Jacobs will consider the catcher’s gear, unless he doesn’t make the 25-man roster and is sent to Buffalo. Let’s get to the reality of the situation.

There is a glimmer of hope for the 29-year-old Jacobs, considering that he’s only a year removed from a 32-HR, 93-RBI season in Florida. The Beaneheads will be quick to point out that RBIs don’t mean anything and his OBP was awful in 2008, but the fact is this: Jacobs will likely get on base as often as Dan Murphy / Fernando Tatis, and be a similar player all-around (baserunning, defense, etc.), but is more likely to hit more homeruns than Murphy and Tatis combined. And that’s the bottom line, isn’t it? It’s not like the alternative is Adrian Gonzalez or Albert Pujols — Jacobs need only be better than Tatis and Murphy.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. James K. February 10, 2010 at 9:24 pm
    “but the fact is this: Jacobs will likely get on base as often as Dan Murphy / Fernando Tatis, and be a similar player all-around (baserunning, defense, etc.), but is more likely to hit more homeruns than Murphy and Tatis combined.”

    I disagree. Jacobs’s OBP the last 2 years — .299, .297. Career it’s .313. He’s projected at something like .300.

    Tatis OBP last 2 years — .369, .339. Career it’s .345. He’s projected at something like .330.

    Murphy OBP last 2 years — .397, .313. Career it’s .345. He’s projected at something like .330.

    I’m not sure you can say their OBP’s will be the same, objectively.

    And this isn’t about being a “Beanehead” — it’s looking at data and making sound conclusions.

    Also, the 2 reliable baserunning metrics (per BP and Bill James) portray Jacobs as a below average baserunner the last 2 seasons while both Tatis and Murphy have been better than him. I won’t even mention defensive metrics because you don’t believe in them, but they all say Jacobs is worse defensively than both Tatis and Murphy. And I’m not sure any of us are qualified to opine on Jacobs’s defensive acumen, unless a lot of time has been spent watching Royals and Marlins games the last 2 seasons. He’s a one trick pony — a lefty version of Ryan Garko.

    If Jacobs logs more than a handful of plate appearances for the 2010 Mets, we’re looking at another 2009. He’s awful.

  2. joejanish February 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm
    James K – I like how you average out Murphy’s career OBP as .345. C’mon, man, he’s never going to come close to his Gregg Jefferies-like debut of 2008, and it completely skews his “career” numbers.

    I’ll look at his 2009 stats as a more reliable measurement, and when I do, his .313 OBP is EXACTLY THE SAME as Jacobs’ career #.

    As for Tatis, well … I know you have special place in your heart for him, as do I. But do you really, really believe that he can perform at even replacement level over 500+ ABs? He’s a super utilityman at best, not a regular 1B nor even a platoon 1B.

    And I hate to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t matter whether Jacobs, Tatis, or Murphy plays 1B. No matter what, we’re looking at another 2009 (or worse). The Mets as a whole are awful — and Jacobs won’t be a difference-maker one way or the other.

  3. James K. February 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm
    I only included the Murphy OBP numbers for completeness — the .345 number is a bit high but he’s certainly projected to have a higher figure than Jacobs. You can throw out Murphy’s number if you like, but bottom line I would bet a ton of money that Murphy has a higher 2010 OBP than Jacobs.

    And let’s not be silly here — I (and likely no one else) has suggested Tatis be an everyday player. I don’t know why it’s relevant what his stats would be over 600 plate appearances when there’s no chance that happens. What I do know is that Tatis has been anything but replacement level the last 2 seasons. His WAR in 2008 and 2009 was about 1.7 each season. That is outstanding given his contract. As for Jacobs? He was below replacement level: -0.3 in 2008 and -0.7 in 2009. He’s a AAA (or even AA) player. Not a big leaguer by any stretch of the imagination.

    The 1B situation stinks, I 100% agree, but I just felt compelled to comment on the assertions about Jacobs having an equal OBP, defense and baserunning to Tatis/Murphy when it’s not really a defensible position.

  4. gary s. February 11, 2010 at 12:50 am
    jacobs??endy chavez?? the omar plan to make us the worst team in baseball continues.i heard on SNY tonite that the wilnots have said that there is no more money in the budget for any major signings.on a happier note,they also announced that no matter what happens in 2010, they will have enough money to pay for the electric in the rotunda to keep the brooklyn dodger videos playing all year..WHEW!!! what a relief..
  5. joejanish February 11, 2010 at 12:52 am
    OK, no one suggested Tatis would be an everyday first baseman. So, then, what is he? Barring injury to others, he’s not going to get many reps in OF, 3B, nor 2B — if he appears in 30 games total at all three positions combined I’d be surprised. Eh, who cares … because as we both agree, the 1B situation stinks.

    As far as Jacobs vs. Murphy in OBP, I don’t get how you surmise that Murphy will be significantly better. Jacobs has gone backward in that area but even at his awful .290-.300 OBP, it’s still about the same as Murphy’s .313. Why will Murphy get better and Jacobs continue to get worse? How do we know Murphy won’t go the way of Jason Phillips?

    That said I’ll take your bet. As a fan, I love all three of them, but the cold-hearted, logical side of me doesn’t see any of them as the solution. Numbers be damned — my eyes tell me that Jacobs’ skills are the closest to having an outside shot at providing average overall production at 1B. I don’t care what UZR says, he’s the most natural-looking of the three on defense, he has the best bat speed, on the bases they’re all equal, and he’s the only one with the potential to hit 25+ homers. Hitting low in the order and with that kind of power, I see him improving his OBP to an acceptable level in comparison to Murphy and Tatis.

    And that’s a point you are missing. In his career, Jacobs has an OBP of only .286 hitting in the cleanup spot (226 games). Batting 5th (109 games), his OBP jumps to .325. At 6th (103 games) he’s at .334. In the 7th spot (only 26 games), he’s at .380. Do you see the trend?

    This is one of the reasons I don’t always trust the broad stats — because players can and often will change their approach depending on varying situations. For a good part of his career, Jacobs has hit fourth, and the numbers tell us he’s been over-aggressive in that spot. Hitting further down — which he’ll do in the Mets lineup — he becomes more patient.

    What’s your thought on Jacobs knowing that bit of info?

    BTW, Carlos Beltran’s numbers drop fairly significantly when hitting third in comparison to 2nd, 4th, and 5th — interesting, isn’t it? Maybe you and I should look into this in further detail and put together a post?

  6. isuzudude February 11, 2010 at 10:06 am
    I hate to interupt the debate – and it’s a good one, I hope it continues – I just wanted to interject that, though the Mets are likely to be no more than a 70 win team this year, and the AAA team is devoid of any true prospects other than FMart, Davis and Niese, they sure would have one helluva “AAAA” team, if there were such a thing.

    C: Chris Coste
    1B: Mike Jacobs
    2B: Russ Adams
    SS: Anderson Hernandez
    3B: Mike Hessman
    OF: Nick Evans, Chris Carter, Jason Pridie
    DH: Frank Catalanotto
    SP: RA Dickey, Pat Misch, Nelson Figueroa, Josh Fogg, Bobby Livingston
    RP: Elmer Dessens, Jay Marshall, Carlos Muniz

    Seems to me Omar has spent the offseason more involved in beefing up the Buffalo roster rather than his own.

  7. TheDZA February 11, 2010 at 10:14 am
    That post sounds like a good idea guys.

    I wonder how the all-lefty platoon is going to work when we have Jerry (obsessed with matchup’s) Manual steering the good ship?

    Dude love that AAAA team – there’ll be jealousy around the league when these guys enter the fray.
    I forgotten about Russ Adams I just thought Cora was going to back up everywhere