Last night, somewhere around 10 PM, the baseball world buzzed with the possible trade of Bobby Abreu, the 38-year-old outfielder/designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, to the Indians.
Cleveland, because of the latest Grady Sizemore injury, one in which everyone predicted, is in need of a corner outfielder. Michael Brantley’s locked in at center field and Shin-Soo Choo in right. And only a combination of castoffs led by Shelley Duncan is left vying for the final outfield spot.
It’s obvious that Cleveland would look to upgrade the position, but acquiring Bobby Abreu, one of the game’s most underappreciated players during his prime, makes little sense for the team. Actually, it makes none at all. Even if the Angels paid all of his 2012 salary.
Abreu, no longer the offensive threat that he once was, hit a paltry .253/.353/.365 last season, with only eight homeruns. And while common sense would suggest he would be used in tandem with Duncan in a platoon position, his defense has become so atrocious – he’s posted a UZR of -75.4 since 2002 – that any offensive value he might supply would ultimately become a moot point.
Despite that, Abreu could certainly be a useful player in the right situation. He stills see plenty of pitches; he averaged 4.36 per plate appearance last season, the second highest in baseball, just ahead of his would-be teammate Carlos Santana. He hit right-handers well enough in 2011 (.259/.366/.400) and has generally owned them throughout his entire career (.302/.411/.517). And even in arguably the worst year of his 16-year-career he still managed to post a fantastic walk rate, at 13.3%.
Look, Abreu’s gotten a lot of bad press lately because he’s declined, but he still could be a useful player – just not in Cleveland.
The Indians are already potentially limiting their offensive ceiling – perhaps severely – by stacking the roster with so many left-handers. Of the projected Opening Day lineup, sans Abreu of course, the team would start six lefties (Travis Hafner, Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Jack Hannahan, Choo, and Brantley). And with many teams carrying 12 or 13 pitchers that leaves room for only three or four bench players. Lou Marson, who happens to be right-handed, will be one of them, but he’s completely inept at the plate. Utility infielder Jason Donald is a virtual roster-lock too and the team seems to be toying with Donald as an emergency outfielder as well, so he might be used there out there. And with Abreu potentially in the fold, that leaves one more roster spot for a right-hander, most likely outfielder Aaron Cunningham, who appears to be the last man standing among the Spring Training hopefuls.
Would the team really carry only one backup infielder and two outfielders?
It just doesn’t seem to make sense, especially considering that Kotchman’s a career .263/.321/.347 hitter against southpaws, and Hannahan, despite the improvement against them last season, still owns a career .249/.323/.358 line against them too. And, yes, Hannahan’s shown better numbers against lefties and righties, but would a manager honestly feel comfortable sending him to the plate against a tough lefty with the game on the line? Probably not.
Bobby Abreu could become one-half of one of the better platoon’s in baseball. And that’s what the Indians are eyeing. But it makes very little sense to add him to such a lefty-heavy team who will undoubtedly burn through what few right-handed options it has fairly quickly.
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