Mar
16

Revisiting Bobby Abreu

By

We praised the Yankees earlier this off-season for reading the bad free agent market in advance. While the team was willing to dole out top bucks to the players it wanted, the Yanks’ decision not to offer Bobby Abreu looked great in hindsight.

Of course, therein lies the rub. That’s a decision that could look great only in hindsight, and it’s disingenuous of anyone to praise it as being anything more than a gamble. When the Yanks didn’t offer Bobby Abreu arbitration, they didn’t know he would end up signing a one-year, $5-million deal. When they didn’t offer Abreu arbitration, they had no idea he would have accepted had they done so.

Five months later, it’s still impossible to judge that situation as anything other than a good decision in hindsight. Over the weekend, Ken Davidoff caught up with Abreu and spoke to the former Yankee about his self-proclaimed bad off-season:

Abreu said he was “surprised” that the Yankees never so much as made him an offer, as he enjoyed his two years and two months in the Bronx. He shouldn’t have been that surprised. They sent signals for months that, at best, they would offer Abreu salary arbitration.

As it turned out, the Yankees opted against offering Abreu arbitration – a great call, as they would have committed themselves to a one-year deal for about $18 million had Abreu accepted. The Yankees correctly predicted how the economy would impact him.

When Newsday asked Abreu if he would have indeed said yes to the Yankees’ arbitration offer, the 35-year-old said, “It depends. Like I say, if you never make an offer, you don’t want to know the answer.”

“It depends.” How telling.

At the time the Yanks could have offered Abreu arbitration, the market hadn’t yet formed, and Abreu would have had to make a quick, uninformed decision. Maybe he would have accepted, and the Yanks would have been stuck paying him a lot more than any time would or should have. Maybe he would have declined, and the Yanks would have earned themselves some draft picks.

As it turned out, had Abreu declined arbitration, he probably wouldn’t have signed for even $5 million, and the Yanks’ opting to eschew arbitration looked to be a solid move. Whether it was actually a prescient decision by Cashman and Co. or a fortuitous bit of luck, the baseball world will never know.

Categories : Hot Stove League
  • radnom

    I’m not convinced he would have accepted. I think he doesn’t want to say now, because he would look foolish admitting that he would have turned down arbitration, but you really can’t look at the end result when predicting what he would have done. That $5 mil deal was signed months and months after he would have had to make his decision…and no one was predicting the market would drop so low.
    It was definitely the safe decision, and I’m glad they made it..Bobby really had no place on the team and if he accepted it probably would have cost us Texiera. I still think there was a <50% chance of him accepting though.

    • jsbrendog

      if h accepted there’s a chance he is still not signed cause a team would have to give up picks and he would not be keen on taking less than the money he got i wouldnt think

      • radnom

        A second round draft pick and $5 mil for Abreu for one season is still a huge bargain.

        • Mike Pop

          So is 2 yrs, 20 mill for Adam Dunn without losing a draft pick but look how long he had to wait to get that deal. With the market that was going on this year, you can never assume anything. You know what happens when you assume something right?

          • radnom

            1.

            He would have made the decision before he knew where the market was going

            2.

            Yes, he would have had to wait until right before spring training like everyone else, but he wasn’t going to go unsigned. The man hit .296/.371/.471 last year with 20 hrs. It isn’t a huge assumption that someone would be picking him up regardless.

            • Mike Pop

              But still, if he didn’t see any offers on the table by the time the arb deadline was winding down, he might of thought to himself that he wasn’t going to make a huge payday like that 48 mill he assumed. He could of just said, it’s 16-18 mill and I have to take that for one year. I agree with what you’re saying but the Yanks had it in their mind that they needed that 16-18 mill for this year’s payroll because of CC, AJ, Lowe, Sheets, Manny, and Teix. Obviously these guys were going to be targets of the Yankees and Ca$hmoney wanted to keep the payroll around that 200-210 mark. Like it’s been said, if he accepted, we might not have one of A.J. or Teix right now. I’d much rather have both of these guys than one of them and Bobby Abreu for one year.

              • radnom

                Do you remember when the arbitration dealine was? No one had any big offers by that point.
                And I dont know what youre talking about, I wasn’t saying that they should/should not have offered him arvitration.
                I was saying that if he declined it he still would be signed right now and not unemployed because of the draft pick.

                • Mike Pop

                  Okay, I wasn’t saying that you did. I was just saying that was probably their general idea. We shall leave it at that.

  • steve (different one)

    follow up question:

    does Abreu even have a job right now if the Yankees offered him arbitration?

    would the Angels, after spending their first round pick (they get the yanks and the mets first rounders) on Fuentes, give up their second round pick for Abreu?

    maybe, b/c like i said, they have 2 more first round picks, but maybe not.

    at best, the Yankees may have gotten a third round pick from someone like the Braves (who should have signed Abreu anyway).

    now, a third round pick (plus the sandwich pick) is better than nothing, but i am fairly confident that Abreu wasn’t going to bring a FIRST round pick.

    • steve (different one)

      i bring up the possibility of a first round pick b/c many, myself included, were banking on a first round pick as late as September.

    • radnom

      does Abreu even have a job right now if the Yankees offered him arbitration?

      Yes. The Cabrera’s eventually got signed. Juan Cruz too. Bobby is still a good player. He might be on the decline but he is still worth a second round pick on a one year deal.

      • steve (different one)

        you’re right, he probably would have signed, but not by a team that still had a first round pick to give.

        perhaps the Angels would have still signed him. perhaps the Braves.

        not sure why the Braves or Mets weren’t involved anyway.

  • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

    This is the same point made by Lombardi at the time Abreu signed, and I will once again disagree with it. If a club takes a calculated risk based on a certain set of market and individual considerations, and the risk pays off exactly as they expected, they deserve credit for it. While you could say that it was possible that he would decline, considering all of the players of his caliber who were not even offered arbitration, I would guess that most parties to free agency this year knew of the market conditions and assumed players would accept.

    • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

      God knows The Yanks get slammed for every bad decision made even though some are only shitty moves in hindsight, so yeah, the Yankees deserve credit for this – if only to help compensate for the undue amount of grief they’ve received in the past.

    • radnom


      I would guess that most parties to free agency this year knew of the market conditions and assumed players would accept.

      I’m not so sure about that…I really think it hit a lot of the players/agents by surprise.

      Examples – Varitek, Cruz, Cabrera’s, etc etc.

      I think people realised it was a down year, but no one saw the magnitude of it comming.

      • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

        Definitely- I just think that it was obvious to most baseball people from the time of arbitration offering that guys like Abreu were not getting 16M.

        • radnom

          Probably, but at that time it also seemed unlikely Abreu could only get a 1 year deal, and at his age he was likely looking for a longer contract.
          So yes, everyone knew he wouldnt get 16 mil for one season, but which is better, 16 mil one year deal or 33 over three years? I think the other was probably thought to be attainable, and Abreu would have gone after it.

          • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

            The Yankees were not alone in their assumption that players would accept arbitration, as Burrell and Dunn were also not offered. Ibanez and Bradley were, but only bc they werent going to get crazy money in arbitration. It just seems that many teams looked at the market for OF’ers and decided that players would accept.

            • steve (different one)

              the difference between Abreu and the rest of the players that were offered arb was the MUCH LARGER gap between his market value and his potential arb value.

              the problem is simply that Abreu made $16M in 2008.

              that made the risk of him accepting above the tolerable threshold for taking the risk.

              if Varitek accepted the Sox “lose” about $5M.

              if Abreu accepted, the Yankees could have lost $10M.

  • Jay CT

    I don’t think he would have accepted. Ibanez got that large deal (I know, after the deadline for arb.), Abreu must have thought he would get a big deal as well. No one saw this drastic a fall. It was a calculated risk; the Yankees decided it wasn’t worth the draft pick they would have gotten… it was basically a 18 million dollar gamble. I still think he would have rejected, but in the end, I don’t think the pro’s outweighed the con’s in the choice.

    However, I still think the Angels would have given him the 1 year 5 million deal even if he turned down arb. They have a few first round picks and they needed hitting badly.

  • Ed

    When they didn’t offer Abreu arbitration, they had no idea he would have accepted had they done so.

    We still don’t know if he would have accepted or not. Abreu being non-committal when asked today probably means he would’ve said no, but he doesn’t want to look like a fool for admitting he would’ve blown the decision.

    Five months later, it’s still impossible to judge that situation as anything other than a good decision in hindsight.

    Totally disagree here. We can only say that if Abreu definitively says he would have accepted arbitration if offered. The signs so far are that he would have declined, which means it was a bad decision.

    • steve (different one)

      We can only say that if Abreu definitively says he would have accepted arbitration if offered. The signs so far are that he would have declined, which means it was a bad decision.

      sooo….Abreu being non-committal doesn’t prove he would have accepted but totally proves he wouldn’t have?

      • Ed

        sooo….Abreu being non-committal doesn’t prove he would have accepted but totally proves he wouldn’t have?

        Reread the part of my post you quoted. It doesn’t say that.

        The word around the rumor mill in January was that he was still expecting to get a large multi-year deal. If he still thought he could get a multi-year deal in January, why would he accept a one year deal in early December?

        • steve (different one)

          this is what you said in the same post:

          We still don’t know if he would have accepted or not.

          The signs so far are that he would have declined, which means it was a bad decision.

          if we DON’T KNOW how does it mean “it was a bad decision”?

          by your own words, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.

          • Ed

            if we DON’T KNOW how does it mean “it was a bad decision”?

            We’ll never know for certain. We’re trying to make a judgment here in hindsight based on the information we have. The information suggests he would have declined arbitration, therefore, it was the wrong decision.

            • Count Zero

              This makes absolutely no logical sense.

              On the one hand, you say it’s only a good decision if we know for a fact that Abreu would have accepted.

              And then on the other, you say it’s definitely a bad decision if we think he might have declined.

              You have to hold the same standard on both ends of the eval — it’s a bad decision if we know for a fact that he would have declined. Otherwise, we don’t know if it’s a bad or a good decision.

              You can certainly choose would have / wouldn’t have and the corresponding good or bad that goes with each — but rigging the evaluation criteria in favor of your hypothesis is the very definition of subjectivity. In fact, even if we knew for a fact he would have declined, there’s still a chance it wasn’t a bad decision because we don’t know for a fact that he would have been signed if a draft choice was on the table.

              • Ed

                On the one hand, you say it’s only a good decision if we know for a fact that Abreu would have accepted.

                No, that’s not what I said.

                Ben said this, which I quoted originally:

                “Five months later, it’s still impossible to judge that situation as anything other than a good decision in hindsight.”

                BEN’S STATEMENT is only correct if we know that Abreu definitely would have accepted. Ben asserted that the decision not to offer arbitration can only be viewed as the correct decision. Hence my response, “We can only say that if Abreu definitively says he would have accepted arbitration if offered.”

                You can certainly choose would have / wouldn’t have and the corresponding good or bad that goes with each — but rigging the evaluation criteria in favor of your hypothesis is the very definition of subjectivity.

                That’s right, but you have to overread my statement to get that out of it.

                In fact, even if we knew for a fact he would have declined, there’s still a chance it wasn’t a bad decision because we don’t know for a fact that he would have been signed if a draft choice was on the table.

                Disagree. It’s not the Yankees responsibility to ensure their former players can find jobs. If the Yankees offer Abreu arbitration and he declines, at best the Yankees are better off for offering, at worst it is no different to the team than if they didn’t offer.

    • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

      Just imagine if Abreu had accepted though – that probably would’ve prevented us from getting Teixeira. Declining to offer arb. gave the Yankees guaranteed payroll flexibility, and that was more valuable at the time than risking being on the hook for $18M for the sake of a draft pick. The risk/reward just wasn’t worth it to offer arbitration.

      • Ed

        The risk/reward just wasn’t worth it to offer arbitration.

        Yeah, definitely there’s merit to the decision they made.

        We’re talking about whether it was right knowing what we know now, which is a different story.

  • steve (different one)

    there were a ton of people bitching about not offering Pettitte arb either, and what did that save them, $5-10M?

    Abreu is the only player where you can argue from both sides, but it seems to me that the Yankees were out in front of the market and made some good calls.

    Pudge? still unemployed.
    Pettitte? took a 50% pay cut

    even Marte, some questioned not taking the draft picks, but is Marte even employed right now if he is sitting out there with Type A status??? what’s the difference between him and Cruz? the yankees, because they signed the first reliever contract of the off-season, probably overpaid by a year, but just like Abreu, i don’t know if the draft picks were going to surface for Marte.

    • radnom

      but is Marte even employed right now if he is sitting out there with Type A status???

      Yes.


      what’s the difference between him and Cruz?

      Well he is a lefty for one thin, but I don’t get your point here, Cruz got a 2 year deal.


      there were a ton of people bitching about not offering Pettitte arb either

      I didn’t mind that, but I’m still confused as to why Mussina wasn’t offered…just in case. That seems like it would be a no brainer, and it would have been great even if he accepted.

      • steve (different one)

        Well he is a lefty for one thin, but I don’t get your point here, Cruz got a 2 year deal.

        i will admit that i forgot he signed with KC.

        i thought that he just went back to AZ b/c no one wanted to give up a pick. i was remembering the controversy about MLB allowing “sign and trades” and i thought this was why.

        my bad.

        • radnom

          No worries. Now that I think about it, being lefty might have hurt Marte more than anything, considering the surpluse of decent lefty releivers and the lack of interest so far. I think he is good enough that that wouldn’t have mattered much though.

    • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

      To be fair, Marte has had a much better career than Cruz.

      • steve (different one)

        it doesn’t really matter that much, b/c they wanted him on the team.

        they were never going to let him go anyway so it’s arguing a hypothetical situation.

        • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

          You could argue the actual, in that they overpaid him bc they thought there would be demand for him, while there may not have been. However, I would argue that he has been better than Cruz, so getting higher AAV than Cruz makes sense, although the extra year, not so much.

          • steve (different one)

            i think they had the AAV pegged, but b/c they went first, they overpaid by a year.

            Affeldt was a solid comp. same AAV, one less year.

            the Yankees didn’t want to allow Marte to test the market, and they wound up overpaying by a year.

            • Mike Pop

              Yes sir, and I believe that the Yankees had to do it. Haven’t had a real lefty for years and while Coke looked great, can’t count on him.

  • Januz

    I think they made the right decision. This team brought in three of the top free agents, and everyone should be happy with that. The draft pick issue is essentially nitpicking, because there is no guarantee, you would even get a future major leaguer with it.

    • Ed

      The draft pick issue is essentially nitpicking, because there is no guarantee, you would even get a future major leaguer with it.

      There’s no guarantee with draft picks, but there is usually very low risk in them (most aren’t signing for significant money, especially once you get into the range of compensation picks) and very high potential reward.

  • A.D.

    Basically it comes down to the Yanks knowing what they wanted to do this offseason, which was shell out big buck to the big FA. And they didn’t want a hiccup of having someone they didn’t want accept arb. Maybe they could have gotten 2 picks for Abreu, but the upside wasn’t worth the risk of him maybe accepting and thus not being able to sign Burnett or Tex.

  • http://ryanhandt.blogspot.com/ handtius

    not related: MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro says the Marlins returned Rule 5 lefty Zach Kroenke to the Yankees.

    • A.D.

      Cool 25K…paying CC’s salary one Rule 5 guy at a time

      • Tom Zig

        Is the Rule V draft only still around because the Twins once got Johan Santana?

      • MattG

        Couldn’t we earn CC’s paycheck twice as fast if we didn’t take Kroenke back?

        • A.D.

          It would be twice as much if they kept him & thus he made the 25 man. I don’t think we can just not accept him and thus get paid.

          • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

            I’m pretty sure we can decline taking him back, so we keep the full $50K they paid us originally. I’m not sure if he becomes a minor league FA or if he automatically goes to the Twins minor league system though.

            • MattG

              If we do take him back, the first $25K comes right out of his minor league paycheck!

              • Mike Pop

                You know what I find funny bout this whole convo of replies. All of you say “we” like you are the Yankees. I do it sometimes too, I just find it funny.

                • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

                  Haha yeah, I’m only semi-conscience of doing that too. But its like, god dammit, I invest so much time into this team, and I talk about them so much, it feels like I’m entitled to say “we”. Its OUR team, even if we don’t have a direct say about it, or make any profits from them (quite the opposite). Every fan of any team should at least have that entitlement.

                • Mike Pop

                  Agreed. Especially the “regulars” like us who just seem to be talking about the Yankees and our favorite football/basketball teams 24/7. I definitely get that feeling too. My dad pointed it out one day and was like what is this “we” bullshit. Now everytime I write we, I go back and change it to “the Yankees”, lol.

                • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

                  How can you go to a sold out game in Yankee Stadium and listen to the intense roar of the crowd in a close one and not think the fans are in some way a part of the team?

                • Mike Pop

                  WITHOUT US, THE YANKEES WOULD BE NOTHING!!!!!

                • Doug

                  NO ONE DENIES THIS!!!

                • jsbrendog

                  I DONT KNOW WHAT WE’RE YELLING ABOUT

  • Rich

    The Dow was about 5000 points lower in early December than it was in May, which was a bright red flag on the downward path that the economy was on. That fact alone rebuts the argument that the Yankees decision not to offer Abreu arbitration because they foresaw the impact that the economic contraction would have on MLB was anything but prescient.

  • dr

    The speculation at the time was, if I remember correctly, that Abreu really wanted to play for the Yankees and that he would probably take the arbitration offer. If he indicated that to Cashman, offering him one would be too much risk.