Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Los Angeles Angels [Print without images]

Friday, March 4, 2011
Should the Angels use Abreu sparingly?

By Mark Saxon

The Angels could face a financial/baseball/philosophical dilemma involving Bobby Abreu later this summer.

Abreu, who turns 37 a week from today, can trigger a $9 million vesting option in his contract with 433 plate appearances. Assuming he stays healthy and in the lineup, he could hit that number by Aug. 1. He’s surpassed that many plate appearances every year since 1998, his first full season.

Is a 38-year old who can no longer play in the field worth $9 million? Doubtful, but the decision isn’t that simple. The Angels also have to figure out how much not having Abreu in their lineup this season would cost them. And, if they simply sit him down for a month, the players’ association could file a grievance.

Abreu brings something to the Angels lineup that no one else in it brings: walks. He’s also been a pretty darn good hitter for a long time. From 1998 to 2009, only nine major-league regulars had a .400 on-base percentage, and only one did it with more than 100 steals (you guessed it).

But things began to unravel for Abreu last year. He batted .255 and his on-base slumped to .352. He had his lowest full-season OPS (.787) ever. He also showed signs of slowing down on the bases (we won’t even talk about his outfield play, since he’ll mostly DH now). He got caught on the bases nearly 30 percent of the times he tried to steal.

Some scenarios have the Angels going with an outfield of 20-year-old Mike Trout, speedy Peter Bourjos and either Vernon Wells or Torii Hunter next season. That would force either Wells or Hunter to DH and leave no place for Abreu.

In other words, a lot will go into manager Mike Scioscia’s lineup decisions as the summer wears on and not all of them will involve that day's opposing pitcher.