Despite rumors to the contrary last night on Twitter (And rumors went bananas last night), Bobby Abreu is still a member of the Angels and according to the wonderful website, MLB Depth Charts, Abreu is still penciled in to the Angels' starting line up as this seasons' Angels designated hitter. That could change, of course, with a trade or if the Angels decide to eat the last year of Abreu's contract. Abreu is now 37 years old and his presence along with the erstwhile, Vernon Wells, effectively blocks prospect Mike Trout from the starting line up and perhaps the opening day roster. Such is life for Bobby Abreu that his relative worth will be debated for the next couple of weeks. It won't be much different than the rest of his career.
There will come a time when Bobby Abreu retires. Perhaps it will be after this year when his contract ends. Perhaps not. But the end will come someday and when it does, there are sure to be wide discussions of his career. Some will point to his eye-popping career slash line: .293/.397/.481, good for a 129 OPS+ (according to baseball-reference.com). Those same supporters will point to Abreu's 393 stolen bases and 75 percent success rate. They could point out his 554 doubles, 58 triples and 1,412 runs scored.
But just as many will counterpoint that he only made two All Star teams in his sixteen years of play and was somewhat ineffective as an outfielder. Despite piling up great numbers with the Phillies, not many fans shed tears when he was traded to the Yankees in 2006. Nor were there many New York tears shed when that team let him walk away to the Angels after the 2008 season. And now there are grumpy Angels fans that Abreu is still a member of their team heading into 2012. It's not Abreu's fault that the Angels signed him to a contract that in hindsight was two years too long. Abreu certainly earned his keep in 2009 and 2010. But he didn't come close last year.
What makes perfect sense is that Bobby Abreu's nearest comp on baseball.reference.com is Bernie Williams. Both players had similar career numbers. Both were better offensive players than defensive players. And both cause a lot of heartburn among writers and fans as to their relative career value. Williams' defense cost him more WAR than Abreu's tally according to Fangraphs. But B-R has them much closer.
Bobby Abreu, if he remains with the Angels through the season, is not going to have a good PR season. And that's unfortunate. The Angels have painted themselves in a box with the atrocious Vernon Wells deal they took on by obtaining him from the Blue Jays. They have to play Wells to try somehow to justify what they will pay him the next couple of years. Abreu's on-base skills are much superior to Wells (in the understatement of the year). Since Wells has to play, if the Angels desire Abreu's on-base skills, he will be forever known to Angel fans as the guy who blocked Mike Trout (who everyone wants to see play in the big leagues).
And we can't leave Torii Hunter out of this discussion either. Hunter quietly (who ever talks about it?) has just as much of a dead contract as Wells. Hunter is going to make $18 million this season and there's no way he'll ever earn it. For those counting such things, that's $39 million committed to three guys who probably shouldn't be in the line up instead of Mike Trout. Hunter and Wells will play because of the money. Abreu becomes the expendable one and he might still be the better offensive player of the three. Abreu can't win no matter what he does. Either he's traded or cut, or he's reviled for blocking a prospect.
It's a fitting problem for a player that has caused so much debate in his career and will after it's over. Bobby Abreu might have been a superstar for two seasons. But he has been a very good player for his career. He is probably not a Hall of Fame player. But in a day and age of on-base mania, he's Exhibit A for how to do it.