We keep coming back to Bobby Abreu. He’s that free agent with whom no one knows know what to do.
On Sunday night, in our open thread, a mini-discussion broke out about Bobby Abreu’s declining walk rate. Some saw it as a sign that Bobby is nearing that Bernie Williams circa 2003/2004 point of no returns. Others — as Jeff Passan wrote in his absurdly comprehensive free agent tracker — still see Abreu as a potent offensive force and are seduced by his career .300/.400/.500 offensive line.
I go back and forth on Abreu. On the one hand, I see him as a much better choice than Xavier Nady, but I recognize that this reaction is based on Nady’s bad month and the two players’ prior records. Considering Bobby will be 35 while Nady will be 30 come opening day, the possibility exists that Nady could outperform Abreu in either or both of the next two seasons despite the fact that Bobby Abreu is a far, far superior player.
So while we’ve already debated Abreu, I’d like to offer up some observations that serve as something as a counterpoint to my own previous belief that the Yanks will let Abreu walk. With Matt Holliday heading to Oakland and the Yanks seemingly not that interested in Manny, Abreu may very well be the best choice whether we like it or not.
Now, despite this predicament, there are some warning signs. Since arriving in New York, past his peak, at age 32, Abreu’s walk rate has dropped, while on the Yanks, from a walk every 7.5 BB in his first two months in the Bronx in 2006 to once every 8.3 PAs in 2007 to once every 9.4 PAs in 2008. That is a fairly dramatic slide. But on the other hand, we have his K rates. This went from 4.8 PA/K in 2006 to 6.1 PA/K to 6.3 PA/K. While he’s walking less, he’s also striking out less. All of this means that Bobby Abreu is putting the ball in play more often. But why?
According to ESPN’s stats page, Abreu is still seeing an impressive 4.29 pitches per plate appearance. This total is right in line with his career average and is down from the 4.39 mark in 2007 and the 4.44 mark he put up during his first few months in the Bronx. The 2006 totals, by the way, were a career high for Bobby in that department.
Now, I’m thinking these changes are due to the lineup. In Philadelphia, Abreu hit third in front of Pat Burrell. In New York, he hits third in front of Alex Rodriguez. Pitchers are much more likely to go after Abreu if they have A-Rod up next. Why pitch around Abreu to face Alex with a runner on base? Objectively, that doesn’t make sense. So perhaps the AL pitchers are more inclined to attack the zone. Who knows? That’s just my theory.
While these numbers offer us a glimpse at what’s going on, we can’t escape the fact that Abreu is getting old, and he’s slowing down. It’s unavoidable. But perhaps his declining walk rate isn’t as much of a concern as we all think.
He’s not a steady outfielder; he’s 35. Those are two good reasons to replace him with some younger. But that option might not exist. The Yankees may just need Bobby Abreu after all.
We still have another 72 hours or so to wait before free agents can sign with new teams, but that hasn’t stopped the hot stove from burnin’. You may have heard about today’s small, under-the-radar trade that sent Matt Holliday to Oaktown for a package of young players that may or may not include Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street and Greg Smith. Is Jake Peavy next? Who knows.
Use this thread to express any hot stove thoughts or talk about tonight’s riveting Monday Night Football matchup. If the Cards-Niners game does nothing for you, check out the Rangers taking on the Oilers at the Garden on the same night ex-Ranger & ex-Oiler Glenn Anderson gets inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Preacher Roe, a name familiar to Brooklynites slightly older than my parents, passed away this weekend at the age of 91. Roe was one of the more colorful characters on the Dodger teams of the early 1950s and retired one year before the Bums captured their only World Series championship. In 1949, he was the winning pitcher in one of the World Series’ better pitching duels. · (7) ·
No surprise here, these two were clearly the head of the rookie class in their respective leagues. Here’s where it gets ridiculous though: Edinson Volquez received three second place votes despite NOT EVEN BEING ELIGIBLE FOR THE FREAKING AWARD!!! He passed the rookie limit of 50 IP last September, yet some esteemed members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America decided he was so awesome that his eligiblity should be prolonged.
These people are paid to write about baseball. What a joke. · (21) ·
According to Jon Heyman, the A’s have emerged the winners in the Matt Holliday sweepstakes. While we’re still awaiting word on the A’s side of the trade, this is a fairly surprising result. One thing is for sure: The A’s really need the offense.
Update 3:46 p.m.: Tim Brown at Yahoo! Sports reports that the A’s are sending Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies. That’s quite a haul for a one-year rental of a player moving from Coors Field to the vast reaches of the McAfee Coliseum. · (78) ·
If you take a look at the Yankees roster and then read through all the rumors that have surfaced this off-season, you might come to realize that nearly no position is set in stone. They’ll seek a new first baseman; Robinson Cano could be traded; the outfield is anything but set; Jorge Posada might not be able to handle the rigors of catching. While the entire roster won’t be made over in the off-season, a number of things could change.
Except third base and shortstop, of course. Sure, the Yanks could move A-Rod to first base, but I think there’s a better chance you see Derek Jeter make that move. Which is to say, slim to none. The left side of the infield is the only sure thing the Yanks have on the offensive/defensive side of things. It would make sense for them to build around Jeter and A-Rod, since they’re the ones not going anywhere.
With Jeter, you have a shortstop with limited range defensively, and a guy who can consistently hit for average and take his share of bases on balls offensively. He’s a perfect fit in the two-hole, and can hit leadoff if you need him to.
With A-Rod, you have a true superstar, a guy who can hit for power, average, and take walks with the best of them. He’s the consummate cleanup hitter, though there’s no harm putting him in the three hold, allowing him to set the table. He plays average defense, as Dave Pinto notes in his Probabilistic Model of Range, which is fine for a guy who puts up gawdy offensive numbers.
On the whole, the left side of the Yankees infield is well above average offensively, but below average defensively. So how do you build a team based on this? It’s clearly not an easy question to answer. Plenty of factors go into team building, even if you don’t have a solid foundation like Jeter and A-Rod.
We can, though, look at what Jeter and A-Rod don’t have and look to add those parts.
Speed. Neither man is slow. Jeter seems to have lost a step as far as stealing second goes, but that’s no huge loss. Alex is one of the better baserunners in the game, and he can swipe second when need be. However, the Yanks could use a burner out there — so long, of course, as he’s able to do his job and get on base. Willy Taveras might be fast, but he can’t utilize that speed to the fullest because he’s not on base often enough (though if you combined his OBP from 2007 with his steals from 2008, you have a real threat). Brett Gardner is the hopeful answer here.
Slick glovework. If the left side of the infield is below average, the team would do well to field a quality right side. Robinson Cano has an excellent glove, though we’ve seen mental lapses take away some of his luster. Mark Teixeira is one of the better glovemen at first base in the league. He and Cano could comprise an above average right side. It won’t make up for the left side, but it will make it more bearable.
Pitch selectivity. Jeter and A-Rod aren’t guys who swing at everything, but they’re not the most selective hitters in the league. A-Rod saw 3.88 pitches per plate appearance in 08, and Jeter saw 3.72. Those are fine numbers, but the Yanks were led by Bobby Abreu (4.29), Jason Giambi (ditto), and Johnny Damon (4.10). Two of those guys likely won’t be back next year. The Yanks need one or two players who can take a ton of pitches and work their way on base via the walk. Abreu actually isn’t the worst in this regard, as he has decent speed on the basepaths.
This isn’t a complete list by any means, just a few things I thought of off the top of my head. What else do Jeter and A-Rod lack which the team should be looking for this off-season?
While free agents are in for some rather large paydays this year, Front Office folks aren’t as lucky. Over the weekend, the Diamondbacks announced they would be laying off 31 Front Office employees for a cost savings of about nine percent. While news like this will probably become de rigeur over the next few months, it’s also fairly mind-boggling that a team as consistently mediocre as the Diamondbacks had the largest Front Office staff of any Major League team. · (10) ·
This week figures to start out slow. We got our fill of rumors from the GM meetings. Free agents hit the open market on Friday, so until then we play the waiting game.
Aw, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!
There are a couple of things we can keep our eye on over the course of the week to pass the time. A few of them are even Yankee related.
Do the Yankees want Andy Pettitte back? He’s made it clear he wants to pitch, and will take a one-year deal. The Yankees, though, haven’t acted on it. It seems they’re not high the veteran lefty; John Perrotto even thinks Pettitte will pitch in Houston or retire. I still think they’ll come to an agreement, but the longer this lasts the less I’ll feel that way.
Jake Peavy could get dealt, though he probably won’t. Not that the Yankees are really in on this anyway. The Braves and the Cubs seem to be at the forefront.
The Matt Holliday rumors have cooled down, as he has one fewer suitor than he did yesterday. The Cardinals have called talks dead. A year away from free agency, he doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Yanks right now.
Mark Teixeira. Will the Angels make an offer while other teams cannot? Will it be a take it or leave it? That’s not as interesting, though, as the prospect of the Nationals offering him ten years at $200 million. Bold prediction: It would be A-Rod and Texas all over again. Which means we’ll have him in 2012.
While the Jets were busy mauling the Rams, baseball seems to take a backseat during Sundays in November. Later this week, the free agent signing frenzy should kick off, and teams and players are looking to wrap up negotiations fairly quickly.
To that end, John Perrotto, one of Baseball Prospectus’ writers, chimed in with his off-season predictions. While the article is for BP subscribers only, I can summarize his predictions as they relate to a lot of the players we’ve been analyzing lately.
CC Sabathia — Yankees. He sees a bidding war of sorts but writes, “The Yankees will throw so much money at Sabathia that he won’t be able to say no.”
Manny Ramirez — Four years and $100 million from the Dodgers. That’s a good signing for an AL team that can stash ManRam and his bad glove at DH. For the Dodgers, this signing will completely hamstring them.
Mark Teixeira — Ten years and $200 million from the Washington Nationals. Perrotto thinks the DC-area native wouldn’t be able to turn down that deal. If Teixeira cares at all about playing on a franchise with a better future, he won’t land in DC.
Mike Mussina — Retirement or the Yankees. That’s not really going out on a limb.
Andy Pettitte — Pettitte filed for free agency today, and while the AP thinks that means something, it’s simply a formality. The Yanks don’t seem overly enthused with bringing back Pettitte, and Perrotto thinks he’ll head to Houston.
Bobby Abreu — The Yankees. Perrotto thinks Bob will return to the Bronx. Depending on years/dollars, I’m not against this move. He’s better than Xavier Nady.
Jason Giambi — Oakland. Clearly.
Jason Varitek — My personal favorite is the two-year, $20-million deal Perrotto predicts the Sox will give Jason. I really hope this happens. It would be great to see the Red Sox flush money down the toilet just because this guy is the supposed “heart and soul” of the team. It’s either that or watching them trade Clay Buchholz to the Rangers for one of Texas’ better catching prospects. Either way, it seems like a win-win for the Yanks, no?
Those are the highlights. Feel free to discuss this or anything else (such as the Giants-Eagles game that starts at 8:15 p.m.). This thread will take you through to Joe’s overnight unless something unexpectedly important happens.