Mailbag: Bobby Abreu

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

George asks: Would Bobby Abreu be a trade candidate for LH DH? Looks as though the Angels are shopping him and he’s signed for a year at $9 million. I’m not sure as to whether the Angels would take on A.J. Burnett‘s contract or not, but something may be worked out if it makes sense.

This was emailed in on Thursday night, before we learned that the ten teams included in Burnett’s no-trade clause are all on the West Coast. So right away we can forget about the Yankees trading him to Anaheim for anyone even though they could really use some rotation depth beyond that stellar top four.

As for Abreu, he definitely makes some sense as a left-handed DH. Putting aside the money and logistics for a second, Bobby still does three things exceptionally well: he draws a ton of walks, steals bases, and stay in the lineup (140+ games in each of the last 14 seasons). His batting eye remains one of the very best in the game, with a 14.7% career walk rate and 13.3% in 2011. He also stole 20 bases (21 to be exact) in 2011 for the 13th consecutive season. You have to figure he’ll slow down at some point — he likely already has, but his instincts have kept him productive on the bases — but if nothing else, he still fits into that Yankee mold of working the count and grinding away at-bats. That style fits perfectly into that seventh hole of the lineup.

On the downside, Abreu’s batting average has sunk into the .250s over the last two seasons (.254 to be exact) after sitting at .285+ for more than a decade. All those walks have resulted in a .353 OBP over the last two years rather than one that’s approaching or above .400. Don’t get me wrong, a .350-ish OBP is still pretty good, but it’s not what we’re used to seeing out of Bobby. Furthermore, his power has started to dry up at age 37 (38 in March), as he hit just eight homers in 585 plate appearances last season (two came in one game against the Yankees, if you remember). Part of that is the pitcher friendly ballpark in SoCal, but not all of it. It’s also worth noting that his performance against left-handed batters has completely tanked the last few years (like, sub-.290 wOBA bad), so you’ve got to consider him a strict platoon bat these days. Obviously, he can’t play defense either.

The Angels owe Bobby $9M in 2012, and he can become a free agent after the season. He’s reportedly open to a trade given the club’s crowded outfield/DH picture, but there’s a sense that they may hold onto him for the time because they don’t have another reliable left-handed bat with Kendrys Morales still on the mend. That said, Jayson Stark recently heard “they’d [trade him] for a middling prospect, just to move the money.” Ideally, they’d get a right-handed bullpen arm in return, he added Stark. The Yankees have middling prospects and a right-handed bullpen arm or two (George Kontos?) to spare, so matching up for a swap doesn’t figure to be difficult.

I don’t necessarily endorse it, but if the Yankees can free up some cash by trading Burnett, Abreu would be a viable DH option. The Halos would have to eat some money and take a lesser prospect in return, but it’s not the craziest thing ever. Someone from the Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, Russell Branyan group might be more logical and affordable however, especially since Bobby isn’t guaranteed to outproduce any of them. In situations like this, oftentimes the easiest way to go (sign a free agent) is the best.

Rosenthal: Pirates one of four teams in on Burnett

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Pirates are just one of four teams with interest in trading for A.J. Burnett. One of those four teams is on his no-trade list, and the Yankees feel Pittsburgh makes the “most sense” as a trade partner. It might have something to do with them being in the NL, or a non-contender, or both. Yesterday we heard that the Pirates are willing to take on $10M of the $33M left on his deal, but the Yankees are holding out for a 50-50 split.

Austin, Gamel among Keith Law’s sleeper prospects

After posting his top 100 prospects list on Thursday, Keith Law followed up yesterday with a list of sleeper prospects for each team (Insider req’d). “Third baseman Tyler Austin has turned himself into a pretty good defender over there, defying earlier predictions he’d have to move to first,” said KLaw of his sleeper pick for the Yankees. “[He] has a whole-field approach to hitting with pull power right now, and runs well for his size with a perfect stolen-base record in the pros.” Austin hit a combined .354/.418/.579 between the two short season leagues last summer after being drafted as a catcher in 2010.

“Also watch right fielder Ben Gamel, younger brother of Mat,” added Law. “Ben shows a lot of promise with the bat, with good ability to square up the baseball and plenty of hip rotation for future power.” I’ve always been a bit of a Gamel homer, so I’m glad that’s been validated some.

Open Thread: Denzel vs. Robbie

In case you missed Robinson Cano‘s appearance on Jay Leno’s show last night, here’s the video. He played a game of Yankees trivia with Denzel Washington, and … I won’t tell what happened. Just watch.

When you’re done with that, use this as your open thread. Both the Knicks and Nets are playing tonight, but you can talk about whatever you like here. Enjoy.

Update: Yanks, Pirates continue to talk about Burnett

Friday: Via Jon Heyman, the two sides continue to discuss a Burnett trade, and the Pirates are said to be willing to eat $10M of his contract. The Yankees are pushing for a 50-50 split, however. Heyman says there is hope for a deal. Joel Sherman adds that the ten clubs on A.J.’s no-trade list are all West Coast teams simply because his wife doesn’t like to fly. I get the sense that this is just a stare-down; each side is waiting for the other one to blink and take on more money. If the Yanks manage to unload half of A.J.’s deal and get something more than a non-prospect in return, it’ll be a minor miracle.

Thursday: Via Buster Olney, the Yankees want Garrett Jones from the Pirates in any deal involving A.J. Burnett. They know they’ll have to eat most of the $33M left on Burnett’s contract, but the problem is that Pittsburgh has no interest in dealing Jones and talks haven’t progressed at all. Jones, 30, is a late-blooming left-handed DH candidate who’s tagged righties for a .360 wOBA and a .208 ISO in his three seasons. He’s spent most of his defensive time at first and right field. Larry looked at him more in-depth a few weeks ago.

Odd transactions abounded in the 80s

One thing that struck me while researching and writing posts for retro week was the odd quality of transactions in the 80s. There were players traded, and traded away, multiple times. There was even a player traded for himself. That’s not even to mention the frequency of trades in general. So to close out Friday, I wanted to take a look at some of the things that stood out to me as odd in the 80s.

Transaction explosion

Trades were apparently more common in the 80s than they are today. For example, in the calendar year 2008 the Yankees made five trades. They made seven in 2009, and then six in 2010. In 2011 they consummated only two trades. (Without looking, can you name ’em?) After making just four trades in 1980, the Yankees went kinda nuts for the rest of the decade. Here’s the breakdown.

1980: 4
1981: 10
1982: 8
1983: 9
1984: 10
1985: 6
1986: 8
1987: 10
1988: 7
1989: 14

So yes, the Yankees were just a bit more active in the past. Can you imagine them making 14 trades this year? It’d be insanity.

Why Ron Hassey?

I’ll be frank: I only remember Ron Hassey because I had a few of his baseball cards. He was pretty crappy, so he’d be a guy you got in every third or fourth pack. For the most part these were cards of him on the White Sox, but there was one year I had his Yankees card. In any case, the Yanks and the Sox dealt him frequently — and oddly.

The Yankees originally acquired Hassey from the Cubs after the 1984 season. (Ephemera: The Cubs got him from the Indians, in exchange for Joe Carter and familiar name Mel Hall.) Hassey caught for the Yankees during the 85 season, but after the season they traded him to the White Sox. That was in December. The following February, before Hassey had even put on a Sox uniform, he was traded back to the Yankees.

As if that weren’t enough, the Yankees ended up trading him at the 1986 trade deadline — back to the White Sox.

Traded for himself

After Thurman Munson’s death in 1979, the Yankees employed a ragtag duo at catcher. Neither Brad Gulden nor Jerry Narron could hit a lick — hence the Yankees’ acquisition of Rick Cerone that off-season. Gulden played sparingly for the Yankees in 1980, and after the season they traded him, along with $150,000, to the Mariners in exchange for Larry Milbourne and a player to be named later. That happened in November.

Six months later, the Mariners finally sent the Yankees that PTBNL. His name? Brad Gulden.

That didn’t end the Gulden saga with New York. Just before the start of the 1982 season they traded him to Montreal. Six months later, they purchased his contract back from Montreal. He became a free agent after the 1983 season, and he stayed as far away from the Yankees as possible, spending the rest of his career in the National League.

Dennis Rasmussen

In 1980 the California angels took left-handed pitcher Dennis Rasmussen with the 17th pick of the draft. He never made it to the majors with them, though. Just before the waiver trade deadline in 82, the Yankees traded Tommy John to the Angels. Three months later, the Angels sent Rasmussen to the Yankees as the PTBNL.

Rasmussen would make his debut the following season, but not for the Yankees. Again near the waiver trade deadline, the Yankees got John Montefusco from the Padres. Why they wanted a slightly above average 33-year-old pitcher I don’t know. Why they ended up trading a recent first-round pick for him I really don’t know. In September they sent Rasmussen to San Diego, where he threw 13.2 innings. Those would be the last innings he’d throw for the Padres until 1988.

Just as the Yankees were about to break camp in 1984, they traded Graig Nettles to the Padres. The return? Yep. That’d be Rasmussen. This time they held onto him, giving him 71 starts and six relief appearances from 84 through 86, wherein he produced a 4.13 ERA (97 ERA+). In 87 he fell off a bit, and so before the waiver trade deadline they dished him to the Reds for Bill Gullickson. He’d make his way back to San Diego less than a year later.

Tim Burke

For those who don’t remember, and I barely do, Tim Burke was a quality relief pitcher throughout the 80s. The Pirates had drafted him in the 2nd round in 1980, but before he made his debut they traded him to the Yankees for Lee Mazzilli. 362 days later, the Yankees traded him, still before his debut, to the Expos for Pat Rooney. I’m not quite sure what they saw in Rooney. He was a punch and judy hitter in the minors, while Burke had been at least decent.

Burke ended up having a fine career for the Expos; his 1.19 ERA (356 ERA+) in 91 innings in 1987 remains a career highlight. In July of 1991 the Expos traded him to the Mets, and then a year later the Mets traded him to the Yankees. They ended up getting 27.2 pretty good innings out of him before letting him walk in free agency, though he never pitched another inning in the bigs after that. It’s kind of a sad return on a quality reliever.

There were some other odd dealings. For instance, the Yankees traded for Claudell Washington twice, getting both the best (120 OPS+) and worst (18 OPS+) seasons of his career. There was something of a fascination with Tommy John. They also had multiple stints with Neil Allen. Again, these types of transactions seem downright outlandish by today’s standards. I mean, have you ever heard of a player acting as the PTBNL in his own trade? How about a guy traded back and forth in the same off-season? Those crazy 80s.

The RAB Radio Show: February 10, 2012

We’re back after a week off, running down the latest happenings.

  • Could Burnett be a goner? Mike and I talk about the possibilities and wisdom of trading A.J. Burnett.
  • The DH situation. The Yankees made some progress here, signing a few players to minor league contracts. But it appears that they have at least one more signing on their radar.
  • Retro roundup. Mike and I reflect on the memories we wrote about during retro week.

Podcast run time 42:00

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:


Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.