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Is Bobby Abreu a good investment for the Phillies? January 23, 2014

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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Bobby Abreu signed with the Phillies on a minor league deal, offering him $800,000 if he makes the major league squad. He’s coming off a solid Winter League season in Venezuela, in which he hit .322/.416/.461. His deal is a bit smaller than the one the Phils offered Jim Thome for 2012, when Thome was 41 (Abreu is 39). Of course, Thome was coming off of a much heavier-slugging season- his OPS in 2011 was .838, almost as high as Abreu’s Venezuelan OPS (and swamping his 2012 Majors OPS of .693). He might play the field on occasion (as Thome did, playing first base in 2012 for the first time since the Bush administration), but the Phils’ corner outfield is pretty solidly set up with Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown starting.

Thome and Bobby both represent an odd trend – it’s not surprising, really, that the Phillies would want to bring back some of their old sluggers for nostalgia purposes, and they did employ Matt Stairs for longer than they should have – but the trend for a while was toward specialization of pinch hitters into the DH role in the American League. Thome started four games at first base for the Phillies in 2012, but otherwise appeared almost exclusively as a pinch hitter or DH (and in fact was traded to Baltimore once the Phillies’ interleague play ended). Bobby still has more in the tank defensively than Thome did, it seems, but he probably won’t start manAbreu batting for the Phillies in 2004. Photo: Rdikeman at the English language Wikipediay more games than Thome did.

Given that the Phillies are going to use Abreu the way they used Thome, this doesn’t look like a bad deal. In order to be a reserve outfielder and present some value, Abreu will only have to beat out a few arms in spring training. He’s not in direct competition with John Mayberry, since Mayberry’s a right-handed bat. The Phils have three left-handed minors outfield prospects on their 40-man roster – Zach Collier, Kelly Dugan, and Tyson Gillies. Based on his 2013 numbers, Collier probably isn’t ready – at AA Reading, he hit .222/.310/.348. Dugan, who like Collier was born in September of 1990, looks like he might be better off, but only slightly – his .264/.299/.472 line in 56 AA games (plus slightly better numbers in 56 games at high A) indicate some solid power, but not much plate discipline. Of the three, Gillies (who’s two years older) may be the most mature, but his .264/.312/.477 line doesn’t represent much of a marginal improvement over Dugan. Plus, when he was promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley, he struggled, with a sub-.600 OPS.

From a development perspective, Collier and Dugan might be a better investment, but neither of them is a franchise player, at least based on numbers alone. Abreu represents a nice left-handed insurance bat off the bench.

Photo: Rdikeman at the English Wikipedia

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