At 38-years old closing quickly on 39 in March, Bobby Abreu‘s MLB career is coming to a close sooner rather than later; in fact, sooner might mean the coming weeks, as the free agent is still unsigned as Spring Training camps have gotten started for the 2013 season.
The Baltimore Orioles, though, may give the veteran outfielder one more shot at extending his time in the majors:
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 15, 2013
That sounds hardly like a glowing endorsement, but at this point of Abreu’s career, that a team might want to take a flier might be a compliment.
It’s not to take away any of his accomplishments, of course. At his peak, Abreu was a five-tool star with the Philadelphia Phillies, and he’ll go down as one of the best outfielders in the early 2000s. That said, his skills have diminished significantly with age, as a five-year decline in OPS indicates.
It was finally enough to take him out of a starting job in 2012 that saw the two-time All Star cut loose by both Los Angeles teams; even if the Orioles signed him now, there would be little to no chance that he will take the field as a regular starter.
They don’t need him to be, though, which is why the team might want to get a look to see if there could be a fit.
The team is set on the right side of the outfield with All-Star Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, but left fielder Nolan Reimold will be a serious question mark.
There’s the matter of his health after coming off a season lost to neck surgery, and also whether he can hit consistently through a full season like the way he did as a rookie, when he put up a promising .279/.365/.466 triple-slash with 15 homers in 411 PA. There’s been flashes of that since, but never in a sustained run.
Should Reimold not perform as expected, the Orioles do not have much of a plan B. Neither Nate McLouth nor Xavier Avery have shown very much to be optimistic about, and while the team could conceivably put first baseman Chris Davis out there occasionally (he made 11 starts in left in 2012), that’s hardly what you’d call an ideal situation.
Neither is Abreu, to be honest. That said, despite the team’s best efforts to get a bit of depth in the outfield this off-season, the ideal option just hasn’t been available.
Abreu hasn’t hit for power in a couple of seasons, but he still gets on base better than most (14.4 BB%, .350 OBP), and could serve as a reserve bat off the bench in lefty-on-lefty situations, as his .718 OPS against LHP in 2012 still easily trumps that of McLouth, Avery, and switch-hitter Wilson Betemit.
The Orioles will continue to evaluate their options through Spring Training, but even if they decide on Abreu, it won’t be the type of impact move that will give the team much of an insurance policy for their left field. But, if used correctly, the veteran could alleviate some of the issues that can arise if Reimold’s return doesn’t go as smoothly as hoped.