2012 Dodgers in Review #19: LF Bobby Abreu

.246/.361/.344 230pa 3hr 0.4 fWAR B+

2012 in brief: DFA’d by the Angels in April, the 38-year-old veteran provided a nice boost during a desolate time before fading badly and getting cut loose by the Dodgers as well.

2013 status: Free agent who may have seen the last pitch of a long and distinguished big-league career.

******

It’s not often, I would guess, that a guy who was DFA’d by multiple teams in less than four months would receive a positive grade for his season, yet that’s where we find ourselves with Bobby Abreu, who was a solid addition to the Dodgers less than for what he did as for when he did it.

That Abreu even got into eight games for the Angels earlier this year was something of a surprise, because he was clearly the odd man out in an overstuffed outfield that got even more crowded when Mark Trumbo shifted there from the infield and Mike Trout ascended from the minors; the return of Kendrys Morales, pushed to DH with first base belonging to Albert Pujols, didn’t help Abreu either. In fact, a deal which would have sent him to Cleveland on the eve of the season was all but finalized before falling apart at the last moment.

Abreu was eventually cut by the Angels in late April, and he was out of work for barely a week before being signed by the Dodgers on May 4. Despite his age and his atrocious defense, the state of left field (particularly with Juan Rivera injured at the time) seemed to make it a gamble worth taking:

As you’d expect from a player of his age, Abreu is heavily into his decline phase. In 2008, his final year as a Yankee, he put up a .368 wOBA in his age-34 season. That held steady at .367 the next year, but fell to .348 in 2010 and just .325 last year; in 27 plate appearances this year, he reached base just seven times. On defense, he was never a plus glove even in his prime, and is now all but unplayable out there, making him an odd choice for a National League team.

This may sound like I view this as a Garret Anderson-level bad idea, and while I’m certainly not salivating over the prospect of him joining the club – if that even happens – I may not mind it as much as you may think. Abreu’s far past his peak, but he did manage a .352 OBP last year to go along with 21 steals in 26 attempts. He hasn’t put up an OBP lower than that since 1997, believe it or not, and he’s stolen at least 20 in every year since 1998. So in a world where Juan Rivera is injured and ineffective, Tony Gwynn is a backup at best, Jerry Hairston is needed at third base (especially with Juan Uribe likely to go on the DL), and options in the minors are either unavailable or unappealing, yeah, sure, I could see this being a decent no-cost add as a veteran bench bat and sometime left fielder.

And for a while, that’s exactly what it was, though as injuries mounted, Abreu started a higher-than-expected 42 games in left for the team. (Plus one in right.) For the remainder of May, it was more or less a stroke of genius, since Abreu became the regular left fielder against righty pitching, hitting .318/.430/.424 while routinely exiting games in the late innings for defense. It was never going to last – oh, hey, .438 BABIP – and it didn’t, which we’ll get into in a second, but that almost doesn’t matter. At a time when the Dodgers were desperate for offense and particularly so in the outfield, given that Gwynn was forced to shift to center to cover for the injured Matt Kemp and Rivera began to see more time at first to cover for the terrible James Loney, Ned Colletti’s zero-cost pick-up was a solid contributor to the club.

That it didn’t last shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. June (.630 OPS) was worse than May, despite hitting a three-run homer against Dan Haren and his old Angels teammates to put the Dodgers up 3-0 in the first inning on June 22. July (.577, one extra-base hit) was worse than June. When Shane Victorino was acquired on July 31 to supposedly put an end to the revolving door in left field, it was little surprise that Abreu was the one who was let go:

And who will Victorino be replacing? None other than Bobby Abreu, as I had surmised yesterday. I’ll have more on that decision another time, but as much as we all wanted Juan Uribe gone, Abreu has no value if he’s not hitting – which he wasn’t – and I’m pleasantly surprised that the team cut bait with a veteran like that rather than watching him struggle indefinitely when it’s clear that he’s cooked. Abreu should be remembered fondly because he came in and produced when the team had almost no other options, but I’m thrilled the roster is getting to a point where you can actually say goodbye to someone like him without a second thought.

Abreu accepted an assignment to Triple-A, though he played in just five games there in August before being called back up when rosters expanded in September:

Just barely over a month after being DFA’d when the Dodgers acquired Shane Victorino, 38-year-old Bobby Abreu is back. He spent most of the last month on the Triple-A disabled list thanks to a sprained ankle, but did manage to get into his first five minor-league games since 1997.

Abreu was another one of those guys who earned a lot of capital with a nice first impression that he was never able to keep up, hitting .318/.430/.424 in May but only .200/.307/.323 in June and .229/.327/.250 in July. On the other hand, the bar for this awful bench group is pretty low, so how good does Abreu really need to be to fit in with Nick Punto, Adam Kennedy, Juan Uribe, Juan Rivera, & Matt Treanor? As a lefty pinch hitter in the world of expanded rosters, one who never ever sees the field, he’s fine to have.

That’s exactly what happened. Abreu came to the plate 21 times in September, all as a pinch-hitter, never once seeing the field. He managed just three hits, though one was a homer, and may very well have ended his career by flying out to left for the next-to-last out in the brutal ninth inning of Game 161.

It remains to be seen if Abreu is able to continue his career; either way he’s more than made his mark on baseball in a 17-year span that goes all the way back to the 1996 Astros. It’s hard to see a reason for a return engagement in Los Angeles in 2013, but we’ll always have that one good month.

******

Next up! Smell you later, Jerry Sands!

Dodgers @ Cubs May 4, 2012: The Bobby Abreu Era Begins

After what seems like three days of “sources” saying a Bobby Abreu deal was close, it’s now official: the Dodgers have signed him to a deal for the remainder of the season. In a corresponding roster move, Justin Sellers has been optioned to the minors. That’s somewhat disappointing for those of us who had either expected that Juan Uribe would head to the disabled list or hoped that Adam Kennedy might be following Mike MacDougal right out that door. Sellers admittedly hasn’t done all that much in the few opportunities he’s received this season, but this now means that Jerry Hairston is the only backup shortstop to Dee Gordon, which is less than ideal.

Abreu was at Wrigley Field taking batting practice today and is expected to be available in today’s game, though he is not in the starting lineup.

Also, a big day for A.J. Ellis over at FanGraphs. I take a look at why he’s owned in so few fantasy leagues, while Eric Seidman investigates our favorite subject, moving him up in the order.

Dodgers
Cubs
SS
Gordon
RF
DeJesus
2B
M.Ellis
CF
Campana
CF
Kemp
SS
Castro
RF
Ethier
1B
LaHair
LF
Rivera
LF
Soriano
1B
Loney
3B
Stewart
3B
Hairston
2B
Barney
C
A.Ellis
C
Soto
P
Billingsley
P
Maholm

 

Report: Dodgers Showing Interest in Bobby Abreu

Here’s the thing about the happy fun times that come with having new ownership: it doesn’t automatically come with a new general manager. If it did, we might not be talking about the Dodgers reportedly being interested in buttressing their core of “veterans who were awesome in 2006,” so says Jon Heyman:

(Actually, though I joke, Abreu was awesome in 2006. .297/.424/.462, 15 HR, 30 SB? Hell yeah.) Of course, it’s not 2006 anymore, and the 2012 version of Abreu is a 38-year-old who was cut by the Angels last week after getting off to a slow start and voicing his unhappiness with his reduced role in a crowded Anaheim outfield which also included Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, and – to replace Abreu – Mike Trout.

As you’d expect from a player of his age, Abreu is heavily into his decline phase. In 2008, his final year as a Yankee, he put up a .368 wOBA in his age-34 season. That held steady at .367 the next year, but fell to .348 in 2010 and just .325 last year; in 27 plate appearances this year, he reached base just seven times. On defense, he was never a plus glove even in his prime, and is now all but unplayable out there, making him an odd choice for a National League team.

This may sound like I view this as a Garret Anderson-level bad idea, and while I’m certainly not salivating over the prospect of him joining the club – if that even happens – I may not mind it as much as you may think. Abreu’s far past his peak, but he did manage a .352 OBP last year to go along with 21 steals in 26 attempts. He hasn’t put up an OBP lower than that since 1997, believe it or not, and he’s stolen at least 20 in every year since 1998. So in a world where Juan Rivera is injured and ineffective, Tony Gwynn is a backup at best, Jerry Hairston is needed at third base (especially with Juan Uribe likely to go on the DL), and options in the minors are either unavailable or unappealing, yeah, sure, I could see this being a decent no-cost add as a veteran bench bat and sometime left fielder.

The real question would be how you fit him onto the roster. The Dodgers are already facing a roster crunch when Ronald Belisario is eligible to return this weekend with Matt Guerrier soon to follow, so adding Abreu would exacerbate that even further. If Uribe does go on the DL, you could swap their spots on the 25-man roster; there is one open spot on the 40-man, likely ticketed for Belisario, though that could be opened up by moving Ivan De Jesus to the 60-day DL or by DFAing someone like Matt Angle or Trent Oeltjen.

It’s if Uribe does not go on the DL where things get interesting. Shipping Justin Sellers back to the minors would be easiest simply because he has options, but then you’re left without a real backup at shortstop behind Dee Gordon. And that would mean… well, dare I dream? If you’re adding an over-the-hill lefty veteran bat, what better man to lose his job than the over-the-hill lefty veteran bat who you shouldn’t have signed in the first place and who has offered little so far? I’m somewhat ambivalent to the idea of adding Abreu, but if it means we’re free of Adam Kennedy then that certainly tips the scales in the “yes please!” direction.

Admittedly, this is not exactly what I had in mind for the first signing of the Guggenheim era, of course. But for the pro-rated veteran minimum? Sure, why not.

If My Calculations Are Correct… You’re About to See Some Serious S#*t

Update, 12pm PST: Well, that was quick. MLBTR is reporting that the Nationals have signed Adam Dunn to a two year deal. You may notice below that I wrote “the Dodgers are in big trouble if Adam Dunn signs elsewhere before Manny does.” Well, now this is happening. Boras has this team right where he wants it. It’s one thing to say “I’d rather sign Dunn for one quarter of the price”, and quite another to say “well, I’ll go with the barely major-league performance of Juan Pierre.” As I said over a week ago when Manny turned down the one year, $25m offer and I said it was time to move on:

What happens if Dunn and Abreu tire of waiting for Manny and each take the money they can right now? Then this team is stuck in one of two equally dreadful situations: having to pay Manny whatever he demands, or having to forgo Manny entirely and start Juan Pierre in left field.

Well, we’re now squarely in that apoctolyptic wasteland of a future. Hooray. Original post remains below. 

Woof. Things are finally heating up after weeks of Manny-gate. So far I’ve managed to avoid one thing I don’t really care about (A-Rod’s steroid “surprise”, because really, who’s so naive that this is a massive shock?) and one thing I really don’t care about (Joe Torre’s book, which isn’t nearly as bad as people are making it out to be),

* Bobby Abreu is off the board! Because that’s what Anaheim needs: more outfielders. Just kidding, mostly, because signing him for $5m guaranteed is a steal for an OBP-challenged club, but I could really care less about the Angels. This really does start putting some pressure on both the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez, because now that Abreu’s gone, the Dodgers are in big trouble if Adam Dunn signs elsewhere before Manny does. The last thing we need is Scott Boras being able to say “your viable alternatives are all gone. Now not only do I want $100 million over four years, I want you to bow before me and acknowledge me as your GOD.” Conversely, this should also put pressure on Boras to negotiate, because if Colletti is worried about precisely what I just laid out, he might hustle to talk to Dunn before it’s too late. It’s almost as though the pieces are falling into place, which leads me right into…

* Big splash! I don’t know who “Scott Bordow” is, nor have I ever heard of the East Valley Tribune, but (via MLBTR) he insists there’s something big going down soon

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention the Dodgers. That’s because Los Angeles could make a big splash in the next 72 hours.

Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers not only sign Manny Ramirez but Orlando Hudson as well.

Los Angeles needs an everyday second baseman, and Hudson is still out there, unable to land the rich multi-year deal he thought he would get when he became a free agent. The Dodgers likely could sign Hudson to a one-year deal worth between $5 million and $7 million.

His “72 hours” ends on Friday afternoon, but that’s a pretty hefty claim to make. While I’m hesitant to believe that a no-name newspaper from the Arizona desert has really gotten the drop on everyone else, the Abreu signing does seem like it could serve to grease the wheels to get Manny going one way or the other. And at this point, isn’t a resolution – any resolution - the most important issue?

As for Hudson, I have to say I just don’t understand. Sure, he’s a nice player, and it’s not even that the money would bother me that much. But is he worth not only blocking Blake DeWitt for a year but more importantly, costing the 17th overall pick in the draft for? Hudson’s injury-prone, anyway (only once topping more than 150 games in a season and missing much of 2008 with a broken wrist), and guys don’t usually get more durable at the age of 31. I suppose I would be okay with it if it meant that DeWitt was part of a package to obtain a top starter like Jake Peavy or Roy Halladay, but I really don’t think DeWitt has that much trade value to other teams. Let’s pass on Hudson.

On the other hand, his middle name is “Thrill”, which is pretty rad… Okay, commenter “J” points out that his middle name is in fact, “Thill” and not “Thrill”. How disappointing. Oh well, I didn’t want him in town anyway.

* Eric Milton, it’s time to play the Feud! I kid about these, because I have no problem with bringing in a ton of old-and-busted veterans at no risk in hopes that one will pan out, as it’s worked out so well for the Dodgers in recent years, but seriously, how many of these guys are we going to see? Milton signs a minor league deal to join Shawn Estes, Claudio Vargas, and Jeff Weaver in this year’s “pillowfight to the death”. Milton hasn’t even been league-average (100 ERA+) since, wait for it, 2001, though I admit that he’s been in the 90s a few times. So hell, why stop there? Who else was serviceable in the early 90s that can be resurrected and brought into camp to be cannon fodder? Russ Ortiz? Tomo Ohka? Sidney Ponson? Jon Lieber? We don’t discriminate! 


87toppsjoebeimel.jpg* Bring back Joe!
For a while, we thought old friend Joe Beimel was a certain lock to leave town, because you just don’t pay big money for middle relievers whose mediocre peripheral stats don’t really support his glowing ERA. But it hasn’t worked out for old Joe…

He’s a job seeker coming off three consistently efficient seasons as a Major League reliever, and left-handed at that. He wasn’t looking for Manny Ramirez money, but when the comparable Jeremy Affeldt signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Giants in November, Beimel (who earned $2.045 million last year) figured he’d be fine.

He figured wrong. The free-agent market suddenly collapsed with the economy, especially at his position. He said he’s spoken with 16 teams, none making an offer worth accepting. Not even an offer in hindsight he’d accept.

Beimel actually heard from the Dodgers for the first time this week, so maybe there’s still a chance here – we know the Dodgers are still looking for another lefty, with Dennys Reyes on the list. Beimel’s no All-Star, but he’s been pretty reliable over three years in LA, so if the price is right, why not take a chance? The devil you know, as they say. Well, some people do. I would never say that.

It’s Time to Move On

On Sunday, the Dodgers offered Manny Ramirez $25 million for one year, which would be the highest yearly salary in team history and make him the second highest paid player in baseball in 2009. After all that’s gone on with the economy, his age and defense, and his personal history, it was an immensely fair offer – perhaps even too much, since there were no other offers out there.

87toppsmannyramirez.jpgYet this morning, it was roundly rejected by Captain Evil, Scott Boras. I suppose that a rejection is a step up from just completely ignoring the Dodgers’ previous offers of arbitration and $45 million over two years, but this is different. Those offers took place way back in November, before the true extent of how bad this free agent market would be was really known. At the time, no one expected either offer to be accepted – but we’re now about two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to not-Vero Beach. This business with Manny needs to get wrapped up, now-ish.

The question, therefore, is: how much is enough? $25 million over one year apparently wasn’t. $45 million over two years wasn’t. As much as I’d like Manny back on this team, I have absolutely zero inclination to go over $25 million/year or over two years when there is just no other market for him right now. Perhaps Boras really does have another team out there; maybe he doesn’t. The point is that there’s no reason to bid against yourself, and I’m satisfied that Ned Colletti has done his due diligence in getting Manny re-signed. (I know!

Remember, the problem isn’t waiting for Manny. The problem is having your backup plans melt away as the spring approaches, and it looks like that’s starting to happen. Adam Dunn has a standing offer from Washington; Bobby Abreu was just offered a one year, $8 million deal from the White Sox. What happens if they tire of waiting for Manny and each take the money they can right now? Then this team is stuck in one of two equally dreadful situations: having to pay Manny whatever he demands, or having to forgo Manny entirely and start Juan Pierre in left field.

Besides – and again, I do want to sign Manny if we can - would I really be all that crushed by not having to tie up $25-$30 million in one older player, especially when the Dodgers can be the Yankees of the remaining free agent market as one of the few teams with money and holes? Look at what both Buster Olney and Ken Rosenthal had to say this morning.

Olney:

I also don’t think Dodgers’ executives will lose a lot of sleep if he turns down the offer, because they appear to be the only team with $30 million or so available to spend, and with that kind of money, they can do a lot of damage in this depressed free agent market. Think about it: with $30 million, they could probably sign Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu, plus Randy Wolf, plus Ben Sheets.  

Rosenthal:

The Dodgers could sign outfielder Adam Dunn, second baseman Orlando Hudson and left-hander Randy Wolf for the amount of money they are offering left fielder Manny Ramirez — maybe less.

Three quality free agents for the price of one 36-year-old superstar — not a bad exchange.

The Dodgers, suitably intrigued by the possibility, are talking to the representatives of each of those players, major-league sources say.

Think about that for a second. No, Adam Dunn is certainly not Manny Ramirez. But for the price of one Manny, you could add the best non-Manny hitter and the two best starting pitchers available? It’s something to consider. As for Hudson, I don’t see the point in giving up a first-round pick to block Blake DeWitt; but then what if signing Hudson for second base meant that you could package DeWitt along with some young pitching for Jake Peavy? I know I’d be okay with having Dunn and Hudson rather than Manny and DeWitt if the rotation went Billingsley/Peavy/Wolf-or-Sheets/Kuroda/Kershaw.

So let’s finish this. Let’s say to Manny and Boras, “there will be no more offers. We’ve given you three different proposals to accept (one year, two year, arbitration) and you’ve turned down all three. We can’t risk losing out on everyone else. You’re free to choose between any of the offers we’ve made until such time as we sign Dunn or Abreu, and then we’re pulling all interest.”

If that means that Manny ends up somewhere else for more money, so be it – I don’t want to pay him more than has already been offered. If that means Manny ends up somewhere else for less money, that’s fine too – it means that the Dodgers did all they could and Boras just completely screwed his client.

Besides, could you imagine what a nightmare it would be if Manny had to sign in San Francisco and their cold, windy pitcher’s park for $8 million per year less than Los Angeles offered? You think you’ve seen Manny throw a fit before, you just wait for that.