In Praise of Calling up Davis and DFAing Jacobs

Just about all of the beat guys (ESPNNY, NYP, NYD)are reporting that the Mets will call up Ike Davis to play first base now that Mike Jacobs has been designated for assignment.

When this happens, it’s a necessary move that makes the Mets better immediately: Ike Davis is simply better at baseball than Jacobs.  He’s a better defender, and more importantly at first base, a better hitter.  The Mets could have simply optioned Jacobs to the minors, but then he would still occupy a place on the team’s 40-man roster.  By DFA-ing him, they clearly intend to add a player, not yet on the 40-man to the big league roster in short order.  The Mets now have ten days to trade or release Jacobs, or he clears waivers, send him to the minor leagues.

Davis has done exactly what a top prospect is supposed to do, hitting .364/.500/.636 in his first 10 games in AAA.  He has three doubles and two HR.  As impressive as the power is the way he’s not just controlled, but dominated the strike zone: 9 BB and just five strikeouts.  (Jacobs didn’t draw his ninth walk with the Royals until May 5th last year, in his 25th game of the year, at a point when he had 27 strikeouts.)

I really think that Davis would benefit from more time at AAA, but the Mets, 15th in the NL in runs scored, can’t afford to wait.  According to EQA, the Baseball Prospectus metric, the Mets are the 14th-best offense in the NL.  This is a team not getting it done with the bat and Jacobs and 1B has been a huge part of the problem.  Mets 1B have hit .191/.269/.298 this year, placing them in the bottom three in the NL in all three major rate categories, AVG/OBP/SLG.

Jacobs has been terrible (.208/.296/.375 in 24 AB) in seven games for the Mets, but even that was fairly predictable.   After all, he hit .228/.297/.401 in 128 games for the Royals last year, his second straight season playing in over 110 games with a sub-.300 OBP.  What’s remarkable about Jacobs start is how unremarkable it really is.  He’s 29 and has been a replacement level player or worse for each of the last three years.

I’m reminded a little bit of the 2007 season.  The Brewers kept Ryan Braun at AAA Nashville where he hit .333/.403/.675 with 9 HR in 33 games for the Sounds.  He hit .324/.370/.634 in 113 games for Milwaukee, in a year in which the Brewers missed the playoffs by two games.   Would promoting Braun (and Yovanni Gallardo, who was throwing lights out in Nashville) earlier have made up the two games the Brewers finished behind St. Louis?  There’s a fascinating argument there.  I’m not at all suggesting that Davis is going to hit like Braun.  That’s not fair.  I am pointing out that recent teams have potentially missed out on the playoffs by waiting too long on their prospects.

This is one the Mets are getting right: putting the better, younger player in the lineup, is an easy choice.

Edit:

I wanted to make one more point here: calling up Davis now, and keeping him on the big league roster all year long would make him eligible for super 2 status, giving him an extra year of arbitration.  Thus, he’ll be more expensive more quickly than if the Mets held him back in the minors for another month or so.  Becoming a super 2 does not make Davis eligible for Free Agency any earlier.

There are 5 comments

  1. fonzy888

    By all accounts Ike needs some work on hitting LHP and hitting breaking balls, but of course he can hone those skills just as well (arguably better) at the MLB level. The only problem, of course, is one that this post touches on. I know that you (Toby) are not expecting him to be Ryan Braun or have that impact, but many/most Met fans will be expecting precisely that. And when he inevitably falls short of that, and the team continues to be bad b/c — well, b/c they’re bad, he’ll get some boos and all that goes along with that. But then, he’s getting booed at some point in his Met career, so why not get it out of the way early. Ideally you might have wanted him to play another month or two in AAA and mash, but not the end of the world. Here’s to hoping his first slump comes in June…

    1. WC

      The problem isn’t really what’s going to happen if he doesn’t produce like Ryan Braun. The bar isn’t set quite that high for him, whatever fans believe his potential is. Everyone will be happy if he puts up an .800 OPS to start off with, because that’s such a start difference from what they’ve seen recently.

      The issue is that it’s possible, even probable, that he’s going to put up Murphy’s 2009 numbers. The fans will turn on him for that. And at this point, expecting more than a .750 OPS from him is pretty unfair, no matter what he’s done in spring training and a handful of AAA games.

      1. fonzy888

        I actually do expect an OPS above .750 if he gets 500 PA. The dude has straight MASHED since June 1st of last year. OPS, by month, league (AB’s):

        June A+/AA – 1.012 (74)
        July AA – .923 (104)
        Aug AA – .982 (69)
        AFL – .958 (85)
        ST ’10 – 1.496 (25)
        Apr AAA – 1.193 (28)

        About 50 of those AB’s in June were at A+ and everything else obviously is AA and up. That’s over 400 consecutive PA where he basically just kicked the living crap out of everything and everyone he faced. He’s a top-20 draft pick; he’s no joke and he sure as sh!t ain’t Daniel Murphy.

        Of course the unknown is how well he will adapt to NYC, the pressure, etc. He could conceivably try to do too much and stop taking walks, and god knows I have no faith in Hojo to right the ship if he starts going bad, all of which make Murphy’s ’09 line plausible, but unlikely imo.

        And although I say I expect an OPS above .750, I certainly won’t be terribly disappointed or boo him if that’s what he settles in at in his first year, whereas I don’t think most fans will be so forgiving. And god forgive Jerry Manuel if he has Ike even in a loose platoon, unless it comes in August and we’re somehow in shouting distance of contention and there are a handful of LHP that you figure he has absolutely no shot against and his once-a-week platoon partner is Nick Evans and not Tatis.

      2. ihob

        COMPLETELY AGREE! Thank the good lord that some logical thought is going on in the executive offices at CitiField. I’d be happy if he bats .250, hell even .240, its still a step up from what we’d see everyday at 1B if the decision is never made.

        I hope this in turn moves Evans back up to AAA where he can play all over the field. Hopefully he’ll be able to overshadow Tatis.

        Finally, I also hope this means we will never see Frank Cattalanotto bat in the clean up spot ever again. The fact that it was done on national television is a complete and utter joke. If it was done for the sole purpose of being able to sub J-Bay in later innings so he fit into that spot, its still completely moronic since he wasted valuable at bats earlier in the game. Jerry Manuel’s leash better be set to choke after that spit in the face of every Mets fan.

  2. NickM

    I believe waiting to call him up after April 19th gives you an extra year of control since 2010 ends up not counting as a full season. So, he still may be a Super-Two, but we’ll at least have control of him through 2016, while calling him up earlier would have meant control only through 2015 (with no Super-Two). Or at least that’s how I think it works….

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