Everyone has been negatively affected by the sagging economy - everyone, that is, except the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. SI.com reports that the Halos have taken advantage of the collective unwillingness of teams not named the Yankees to shell out big money for free agents this offseason by signing former Bomber Bobby Abreu to a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus incentives. The addition of Abreu won’t completely make up for the defection of $180 million man Mark Teixeira to the Bronx, but it will come a lot closer to doing so than some people probably realize, at a much lower cost.
Abreu will be 35 this season, but if his 2008 campaign is any indication, he’s still got some gas left in the tank. Many would be surprised to learn that Abreu stole 22 bases last season, marking his 10th straight year with 20 or more steals. He hit .296 - just four points off his career average of .300 - and knocked in 100-plus runs for the sixth consecutive season. He topped the 20-home run mark for the first time since 2005 and the eighth time overall and scored 100 runs in a single season for the eighth time. He’s also quite durable, having exceeded 500 at bats every season since 1998, when he had 497 in his first year with the Phillies.
I understand that Teixeira will probably be putting up star-quality numbers long after Abreu has called it a career, but in the short term, Abreu offers similar production. At first glance, Texieira’s primary 2008 stats - .308 average, 33 home runs, 121 RBI - look vastly superior to Abreu’s .296, 20 jacks and 100 RBI. However, Abreu had three more hits (180) than Texieira, scored only two fewer runs (100) and stroked just two fewer doubles (39) while legging out four triples to Teixeira’s zero. Abreu also stole 22 bases while Teixeira swiped just a pair. Teixeira is an on-base machine and posted a better mark than Abreu last season (.410 to .371), but Abreu is no slouch, either - his .405 career mark is 10th among active players. And yes, Teixeira offers Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base, but you may not have known that Abreu won a Gold Glove of his own just four years ago, in 2005.
Abreu to the Angels isn’t a done deal yet, but the Los Angeles Times is reporting that he will undergo a physical in Southern California today and that an agreement is expected before the start of spring training on Saturday. The addition of Abreu will ensure that Mike Scioscia‘s club - which is expected to contend for the World Series title once again this year - won’t be forced to go with some combination of the underwhelming Gary Matthews, the oft-injured Juan Rivera and speedy but offensively challenged Reggie Willits at one of their outfield spots. The Halos decision not to enter the Manny sweepstakes - if there’s only one or two teams involved, can you really call it a sweepstakes? Anyway … - or to break the bank for Teixeira now looks a whole lot better.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.