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Red-hot Abreu making 29 teams look foolish

Aug 4, 2009, 5:11 PM EDT

The faltering economy didn’t take much of a toll on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett last winter, thanks to the Yankees’ lavish buyout plan, but those unwanted by the Bombers had to scramble to find refuge and many remained unemployed until February. Take Bobby Abreu, for instance. Too many quality GMs believed they were already set at the outfield corners and too many lousy ones weren’t bright enough to see that he was still a fine player. After talking with the A’s and White Sox, Abreu ended up accepting $5 million from the Angels just days before camp opened. It was an $11 million paycut.
Of course, Abreu has proven to be a bargain, even if he didn’t hit his first homer until May 26. He’s currently batting .322/.417/.455 with 22 steals in 27 attempts. He ranks sixth in the AL in average, third in OBP, tied for fifth in steals and 11th in runs created. He was just named the AL’s player of the month for July, mainly because he led the circuit with 28 RBI. His defense, much maligned during his final season in New York, has graded out as practically average this year.
Abreu is on pace to play in 150 games and post an 800 OPS for the 12th straight seasons. With one more homer, he’ll join Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan and Willie Mays as the only players with 250 homers, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases.
Unlike those five guys, Abreu hasn’t quite performed at a Hall of Fame level. He’s never led the league in average, OBP, slugging, homers, runs, RBI or steals. His only “black ink” comes from when he led the NL in doubles in 2002 and tied for the lead in Triple-A in 1999. He actually led the majors in walks in 2006, but that was the year he was traded from the Phillies to the Yankees at midseason. His highest ever finish in the MVP balloting was 14th place in 2005, which actually was pretty far down the list of his best seasons. He’s appeared in just two All-Star Games.
Abreu deserves much better treatment than he’s deserved through the years. He’s not one of the game’s greats, but he’s been awfully effective for a long time. Worse players have been enshrined in Cooperstown. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he’s treated when he’s a free agent again this winter. Abreu will turn 36 next spring, and he’s not known for his conditioning. Still, the remarkable durability should make him a candidate for one more multiyear deal, likely at significantly more than the $5 million he’s earning this season.

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