32 homers in ’08, no guaranteed job in ’10

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — I caught up with Mike Jacobs on Saturday, and it still boggles me that even he couldn’t land a Major League contract for the 2010 season.

I understand this isn’t Willie McCovey we’re talking about here. Jacobs obviously has his flaws. He’s weak with the glove and can play just one position (many will say that’s designated hitter, not first base), strikes out a whole bunch, and he needs to play every day to be effective (pretty much eliminating the chance he can be an effective late-game pinch-hitter).
But Jacobs still brings value because he can put up power numbers by swinging a big bat from the left side of the plate. After hitting .310 with 11 homers in 30 games in his first year with the Mets, the guy averaged 23 homers and 75 RBIs per season with the Marlins for three years. Sure, that came with a .258 batting average, .314 slugging percentage and .483 on-base percentage. And, sure, he struggled mightily in his first year in the American League with the Royals last season, batting just .228 with 19 homers in 128 games while serving mainly as a DH. 
But, really, he can’t get a guaranteed contract — anywhere?
“I think it’s a little surprising,” Jacobs told me before his Saturday workout at Tradition Field. “I think if you look at my career numbers, they’re pretty solid for four years in the big leagues. I think it’s just kind of the way it is now. Teams are kind of waiting people out a little bit.”
Yeah, no kidding.
Take Russell Branyan, for example. Branyan is also a lefty-hitting first baseman — though he can play third base and the outfield, too — and he broke out last year by hitting a career-high 31 homers and 76 RBIs. But he didn’t find a suitor until Feb. 19, and when he did, it was a one-year, $2 million deal with the lowly Indians. 
His .251 batting average probably had something to do with that, but I think this is more of the sign of the times — a sign of the economic state, in specific. You don’t need to look any further than Jacobs’ own clubhouse, as the Mets have made a bevy of Minor League signings this offseason.
For what it’s worth, Jacobs called his recent contract “a technicality” and seems to be staying positive. 
“I think it is what it is,” he said. “You can’t really put too much emphasis on it, about it being a Minor League deal or a Major League deal or whatever. The bottom line is you have a uniform on your back, and you have a chance to open peoples’ eyes again.”
It seems like Major League clubs are making more and more veterans have to do that before they make big league money. Is this indeed a sign of the times, or a long-term step in a different direction?
Mets infielders and starting pitchers meet before bunt-situation and first-and-third drills.

Ready for some games?
The Mets apparently are. They issued their pitching probables for the first four exhibition games. So, if you’re in their area, maybe you’re interested …
* March 1 (Intrasquad): Jack Egbert, Clint Everts, Travis Blackley, Jonathon Niese, Tobi Stoner, R.A. Dickey, Jenry Mejia
* March 2 (vs. Braves): Nelson Figueroa, Hisanori Takahashi, Bobby Parnell, Elmer Dessens
* March 3 (at Braves): Pat Misch, Pedro Feliciano
* March 4 (vs. Cardinals): R.A. Dickey, Tobi Stoner

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