Remember Bobby Abreu?
After 2008, with a healthy Xavier Nady in tow and despite 2 1/2 very productive seasons in New York, the Yankee front office was fine with letting Abreu walk (he loves walking, so why not?). At the time, the move was considered the right one, especially since Abreu appeared to be on the decline. His defense, in particular, had become a major weakness. He had played terrible defense with the Yankees in 2006, passable defense in 2007 and, if it wasn’t for Brad Hawpe’s iron glove, Bobby would have been the worst right fielder in baseball in 2008 (-25.6 UZR). In fact, his defense was so bad a season ago that it had negated most of his offensive value (he was worth 1.2 WAR). Based on that element alone, it seemed like a good idea to let him go without offering him arbitration or a new contract, especially with Nady on board.
Over the winter, other teams appeared to agree with the Yankees’ line of thinking, as Abreu struggled to find work (the economy didn’t help matters, of course). Here’s what Abreu had to say about the situation to Tim Brown (Yahoo!):
“What happened to me in the offseason was hard to understand,” he says. “I know people talk about my defense. But you know what, in the end last year I had, what, 14 assists?”
Ten, actually. And nobody runs on the arms that they don’t think they can run on. Still, his point …
“I could not believe other players got contracts and I had good numbers and I didn’t have a contract offer out there anywhere,” he says. “I don’t make trouble. I go out on the field and play hard, just one way, play hard. Really, I’m not a troublemaker. I’m a nice and calm person.”
In the end, LA decided to take a chance on this “nice and calm” person (was that a jab at the Cubs for bringing in Milton Bradley?), signing him to a one-year deal worth $5 million so that he could help protect Torii Hunter (according to Fangraphs, due to his poor defense in 2009, a $5 million deal is what the Yankees should have paid Abreu in his final year). Abreu now makes less than teammates Gary Matthews Jr. and Chone Figgins.
Little did we know that the Angels had themselves a bargain. In LA, Abreu is hitting .322/.416/.453. He has 8 homers and 22—yes, 22—stolen bases on the year (he’s been caught 5 times). In 2008, while in pinstripes, Abreu stole 22 bases all season but was caught 11 times (not the best percentage). His wOBA in ’09 is .387—the highest it’s been since 2006. He walks 14.6% of the time, which is also his best percentage since the ’06 season. On top of that, his defense has improved. His range in RF is still a negative factor, however, he isn’t nearly as bad as he was in 2006 or 2008. Instead, he’s playing very passable defense in ’09 as his UZR/150 is -3 (similar to his ’07 season with the Yankees, when he had a -2.5 UZR/150). This season, Abreu has been worth 3.1 WAR. Essentially, he’s playing the way he did in 2007 while in the Bronx, though his numbers are actually better in LA.
If teams knew that they would be getting the ’07 version of Bobby Abreu, he would have found himself a longer list of suitors last winter. The Yankees are happy to have Nick Swisher, who offers many of the qualities Abreu had, however, when you consider how well Abreu has played in LA, I’m sure they would have been in on him instead of ignoring him over the offseason. Also, Swisher has had a bad year in right field and is being paid more than Abreu is in 2009 ($5 million versus $5.3 million), so when you factor that into the equation, his 1.7 WAR isn’t nearly as good as what Abreu would have provided. With that said, for all we know, Abreu could have been a terrible defender with the Yankees in 2009, therefore, it’s hard to compare the two. Plus, the Yankees were expecting Nady to be in right, not Swisher, so that limits the comparison (Abreu probably would have been better than a healthy Nady, though).
Come 2010, after his one-year deal is up, it’ll be interesting to see what type of payday is in store for Abreu. His defense is fine—for now—and his offense is better than it has been in years. As long as he remains healthy, he should be able to get himself a multi-year deal (with LA or another club). He has definitely earned it this season.
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