The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim released Bobby Abreu today, even though the team’s designated hitter is in the option season of a two-year, $19 million deal he signed prior to 2010. Abreu’s option was guaranteed when he reached his required plate appearances last season, but the Angels chose to release him and call up minor league sensation Mike Trout (who was hitting .403) to the big league club.
Abreu has struggled this season, with just a .208/.259/.333 statline, no home runs, and five RBIs in 27 plate appearances. He batted just .253 last season and .255 the year before but his ability to still draw walks is what has made him a worthwhile player. Abreu ranks 24th all-time in career walks, and he was an underrated offensive player in his prime – he hit for average, walked a lot, hit home runs, and stole bases.
Like any lefty, Abreu has struggled throughout his career against lefties, with a career .751 OPS against southpaws that is 175 points lower than his mark against righties. He posted just a .598 OPS against lefties in 167 plate appearances last season, meaning he may be best used as a platoon player at this point in his career.
To make room for Abreu, the Philadelphia Phillies would need to get rid of a player on the active 25-man roster. John Mayberry, Jr. and Jim Thome are the logical choices. Mayberry has struggled immensely this season but it might be too soon to give up on him. Thome is a fan favorite, but he’s not producing, and his .118/.211/.118 statline in 19 plate appearances this season is frightening. He has struck out an incredible 10 times, over half of his times to the plate, and he is such a liability defensively that the Phillies don’t really feel comfortable playing him in the field. And it’s not as if his bat cancels out his defensive struggles.
Releasing Thome to sign Abreu would be a shocking move. Thome was a fan favorite and one of the most popular players in recent years, and Abreu was largely disliked even though he was an incredibly productive offensive player during the nine years he was with the club.
But it’s about winning games. Abreu can play left and right field on defense, and he wouldn’t play right field at all with Hunter Pence on the team. The Phillies never seem to have good defenders in left field, with Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez in recent years, so Abreu couldn’t be much worse than them.
But Abreu’s numbers seem to suggest he has dropped off too much this season, and it might be too early to make such a move. Still, it’s worth considering if Thome continues to struggle and Abreu goes unsigned.