Leo Nunez Traded to Marlins for Mike Jacobs

Here's a pretty interesting trade to start the offseason. Leo Nunez, the former Pirates prospect Dave Littlefield dealt to the Royals for Benito Santiago, has been traded to the Marlins for first baseman Mike Jacobs.

I just looked at Jacobs' stat line for the first time in a couple months, and it's a sight to behold if you haven't looked at it. Jacobs' .247/.299/.514 line is like a year out of Dave Kingman's career--he didn't hit much, but when he did the ball went a really long way. Jacobs' 32-homer 2008 may be the worst 30-homer season since--what--Tony Batista in 2000? Jeromy Burnitz in 2003?

Anyway, the most likely path for Jacobs may well be a few more seasons of a decreasing batting average until he just isn't playable anymore, but he just turned 28 today; Kingman himself had a late peak that started in his age 29 season, and he hit 48 homers as a 30-year-old, so anything's possible. For a bad team with no good first base option, Jacobs is a great gamble.

I just wonder whether the Royals are that bad team. This move probably amounts to an admission that Billy Butler should DH going forward, which sounds fine to me, but what about Kila Ka'aihue, who had a ridiculous 1.085 OPS in Class AA and AAA this year while hitting 37 homers and posting 104 walks against 67 strikeouts? If that isn't the line of a player who deserves a shot in the big leagues, I don't know what is. And Ka'aihue and Jacobs are both left-handed, so they can't be platooned. Royals Review has it right: "Royals Acquire Mike Jacobs for Some Reason."

For the Marlins, this is probably just a salary dump--Jacobs is arbitration-eligible--but I've always like Nunez and I see no reason to stop now. His strikeout rate declined a bit this year, but he allowed just two homers in 48 innings. He just benefit from a move to a weaker league and a nice pitcher's park.

This is a strange trade for the Royals--not necessarily a terrible one, but it raises some questions about their plans. If it gets in the way of Butler's development, it's an awful idea, and personally, I'd have preferred to keep Nunez and give Ka'aihue a shot.

UPDATE: ChadBahamas in the comments may be on to something in suggesting that the Pirates try to swing a deal for Butler. Rany Jazayerli's excellent writeup about the Jacobs rumors, written before the trade, points out this article, which reports that after the 2006 season, the Royals offered Butler to the Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt. (Bill Bavasi, amazingly even for him, turned the Royals down.) I'm not sure what the Pirates have to offer that the Royals would want, but Butler's definitely a player I'd want around, even given his defensive liabilities, and it sounds like the Royals would gladly trade him for below market value. I've never figured Royals GM Dayton Moore for a sucker before, but I'm beginning to wonder now.

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