When Bobby Abreu officially made enough plate appearances to vest his $9 million contract option for 2012, you’d have thought drowned a sack of puppies based on the vitriol aimed in his direction by certain segments of the Angel fan base. I guess that is what happens when you are they guy who now could stand in the way of Mike Trout ascension to the majors.
Gosh, you’d think the Angel fans would be used to having old, overpaid outfielders on their roster by now?
Anyway, the instant his option kicked in (and even before it did, really), Angel fans have been racking their brains to find a way to unload Bobby to alleviate the impending logjam in the OF/DH spots. Some of these schemes seem rather practical, others, well, let’s just say they score points for creativity but the German judge really screwed them on the plausibility score.
Somehow ridding the roster of Abreu and his entire salary is obviously the clear preference, but given the lack of a market for an overpaid DH with no power, I’m going to go ahead and guess that trading Abreu this off-season may not come to pass. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean the sky is falling. Actually, it might be a good thing for the Angels… if they are smart about it.
The fallacy in the “Abreu is blocking Trout” argument is that the team is somehow legally obligated to keep Abreu in the lineup everyday. Obviously, his bloated salary is going to create some sort of incentive to Angel management to see Abreu play and “earn his money.” I’ll save you the Economics 101 lecture on sunk costs and just trust me when I say that it would be totally illogical for the Halos to do that, though they certainly wouldn’t be the first team to fall into that logical trap. However, I think they will smartly avoid said trap.
We’ve seen Mike Scioscia show blind faith to decaying veterans like Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero in the past, so there is a chance he could do the same with Abreu, but he has also been smart enough to bench guys who just aren’t getting it done on the field, as he did with Gary Matthews Jr. and Juan Rivera most recently. Should Abreu’s decline continue in 2012 (and it likely will), Scioscia will most likely phase him out like he did GMJ and the Human GIDP. Really, the only reason Abreu hasn’t seen his playing time drop off this season is a lack of depth. Really, who would the Angels have DH instead of Bobby? Russell Branyan? Bah! Next year though, the arrival of Mike Trout and (hopefully) the long-awaited return of Kendrys Morales should make it much easier for Sosh to start putting Abreu out to pasture since he will actually have depth for a change.
The other reason Abreu hasn’t been replaced already is that he isn’t totally useless. While his average is no longer anything special and his power has almost entirely abandoned him, Bobby still gets on base at a better clip (.376 OBP) than any other Angel. Unless Bobby’s eyes start to go, there is no reason to think he won’t still be able to draw a ton of walks next year as well, so should the Angels get stuck with him, at least he still brings something to the table. As a full-time player, that skill will only take him so far since there is so little else that goes with it, but as a part-time player, Abreu would be a welcome addition to an Angel bench that has been devoid of anything useful not named Izturis this season. Sure, he’ll be collecting some very expensive butt splinters, but at least he isn’t a third or fourth catcher for Scioscia to carry on the roster for no apparent reason.
Bench depth can be a luxury sometimes, but it can also be a necessity for a team like the Angels. Not to take a depressing turn here, but how do we know Kendrys Morales is even going play at all next season? And what if Torii Hunter and/or Vernon Wells continue their own declines? And, heaven forbid, if Mike Trout doesn’t pan out, Abeu would make for a nice fallback option as the lineup’s designated on-base guy. I hope like crazy that none of those scenarios come to pass, but if they do, at least the Angels have Abreu as a safety net.
Still not buying it? Let me remind you that the last time the Angels ignored bench depth, we were treated to the infamous Paul McAnulty era.
His $9 million salary will always be a bitter pill to swallow and Tony Reagins should do everything in his power to try and get that salary off the books for 2012 so that the Angels can be players in free agency, but if he fails to do so (insert obligatory Fire Reagins joke here), it isn’t the end of the world.