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!