He grumbled. He griped. He bitched. He moaned. He spouted off to the press. He had multiple sitdowns with management. Finally, he got what he wanted… sort of.
Yes, Bobby Abreu complained enough that he is finally got a promise of playing time, at least 400 plate appearances. He’s still not all that happy with it, as he is still deluded enough to believe that he should be in the lineup at all times, but this olive branch delivered by Mike Scioscia seems to have placated him for the time being. Or at least we hope.
There is only one small problem: where exactly does Bobby Abreu think that Scioscia is going to find these extra 400 at-bats lying around?
This isn’t a problem because Abreu isn’t any good. He is clearly past his prime, but he definitely still has his uses. Where it is a problem is that 400 plate appearances is quite a bit. A player playing every inning at one defensive position is likely to get about 700 plate appearances over the course of the year. That would mean Abreu is going to be playing more often than he is not. That means finding 90 or starts for him over the course of the year. That one means one or two or even three or four more deserving players might have to sit a lot more than they probably should just to appease Bobby.
Mike Scioscia, you might have just made a promised yourself into a corner.
Sosh isn’t totally without recourse. There are a few ways he can go about getting Abreu the necessary playing time. The question is which option is best? (SPOILER ALERT: not giving him 400 plate appearances is probably best, but also might not be an option)
OPTION #1 - The Shell Game
This is the solution that Mike Scioscia already alluded to. Giving Abreu a little bit of time all over the lineup. I imagine that Scioscia prefers this arrangement because he is an optimist as it means all of the regulars are meeting or exceeding expectations. This is what we call a good problem, but it is still an actual problem, a logistical one.
If everyone is healthy and performing, then it is going to be hard justifying sitting any of them and thus make it hard to find those 90 starts for Bobby. Let’s say Torii Hunter sits out 15 games, which is a stretch since he has played in 150+ the last two seasons. Then Peter Bourjos sits for 20, even though he sat in just 15 last season. Vernon Wells missed 31 games last season, mostly due to injury, but he could probably stand to sit for 30 games again this year, although it might be more like 15 if he suddenly returns to All-Star form. The easiest playing time to find will be at DH. Kendrys Morales might be able to return to form, but given his health, he could probably stand to sit for 40 games. Add it all up and that is 90 starts for Abreu. Hooray! He wins.
Small problem, Mark Trumbo loses in a big, big way. Trumbo is not going to get any playing time at first base and he won’t get any time in the outfield either with Abreu chewing up all of the spare playing time. Maybe he can sneak another 20 games in at DH (meaning Morales only makes 100 starts on the season) and then everything else would have to come at third base, assuming he can make that transition. Even with that, he is probably looking at no more than 250 plate appearances, which is a lot less than he deserves.
The other downside to this is that it means that the lineup is going to be in almost constant flux. Is it worth sacrificing offensive consistency just so Abreu can be happy?
OPTION #2 - The Platoon
If you want to find an easy way for Abreu to get 400 plate appearances, a left-right platoon doesn’t get much simpler. No sense pussyfooting around this one either, Abreu could easily slide into a platoon with Vernon Wells. Mike Scioscia flirted with the idea down the stretch last season before easing off, but it does suggest he is open to it.
With expectations set so low for Vernon Wells, it is hard to imagine anyone objecting to such an arrangement. OK, Wells might object, which could be a problem since the last thing the Halos need is another overpaid, over-the-hill outfielder rocking the boat. It would also seem to be a presumptive move by Scioscia to force Vernon into a part-time role before he is given a proper chance to prove himself.
Part of me suspects that this is what Scioscia already has in mind but he just didn’t want to come out and say it yet so that Vernon could save some face. Another part of me though realizes that this could be a terrible idea since it would mean Abreu not only playing a great deal, but doing most of his playing while bumbling around in the field instead of at DH where he belongs.
The biggest part of me (I’ll let you guess which part that is, ladies) though thinks that if the Angels are going to platoon Wells and Abreu since neither is good enough to hold down a full-time job, then they might as well just blow things up, bench or trade them both and hand the keys to left field to Mike Trout. That might make too much sense though.
OPTION #3 - The Vulture
The entire justification for even keeping Abreu on the roster all this time is because he is a good insurance policy in case Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales were unable to recover from their injuries. But as the season draws closer, it appears that both players will be healthy enough to play (how effective Morales will be is an entirely different topic for another time). To a certain extent, the notion of holding onto Abreu still makes sense as there is a reasonable likelihood that someone will get hurt.
It could be Morales suffering a setback. It could be Vernon Wells getting dinged up; he did hit the DL last year. It could be Torii Hunter finally breaking down in his old age. It could be Peter Bourjos’ hip issue turning into a real problem. Or it could just be any of them suffering a fluke injury and having to miss an extended period of time. If any of that happens, Abreu would have a legitimate reason to be in the lineup everyday.
The trick here is keeping him happy until the injury bug sinks its teeth into the depth chart. Is he really going to be happy playing once a week while he sits on the bench and quietly hopes someone gets hurt?
Or maybe he won’t have to wait at all. Maybe Mike Scioscia already knows that there is going to be 400 available plate appearances coming open soon. Maybe he knows that Kendrys Morales isn’t going to get healthy, in fact, now that I think about it-
Scared you, didn’t I? Morales will probably be fine. But you believed it for a second though, right?
OPTION #4 - The Moving Van
Let’s be honest, you all knew it was leading to this. The poll at the top of the post probably had a lot to do with that, but I like to think you are all super smart and came to this logical conclusion through deduction and intuition instead.
Bobby has already made it known that he wants to play everyday. Not every other day, every single day. That isn’t going to happen in Anaheim and he is only swallowing this part-time gig idea because he has no other choice. Read his interview from yesterday and it is readily apparent that he still wants out. Turn back the clock two weeks to the aborted Burnett-Abreu trade and you can see that the Halos want him out as well. Honestly, this whole thing has the feel of a married couple in which both people clearly want a divorce, but they agree to go to counseling just so that they can say that they tried.
Quit screwing around, this marriage is over. You don’t love each other anymore and all this bickering is really taking a toll on the kids (that would be us fans). Just split up already. Don’t worry about the alimony (Abreu’s remaining salary) or who gets to keep what stuff (by that I mean what they get back in a trade), just wait until Abreu leaves for work in the morning, pack his suitcase, leave it on the front step and change the locks on the door.
In a perfect world, the Halos would be able to convince the Orioles to take Bobby and $1 million bucks of his salary off their hands in exchange for whatever their version of Brad Mills is (Brad Bergesen, perhaps?) and then everyone can go on their merry way.
The best part is that Mike Scioscia gets to keep his promise of 400 plate appearances because he never said where he would get them. Sucker!