Via the New York Times:
As the trading deadline approaches, the object of the Yankees’ affection is becoming more and more obvious. As he left Yankee Stadium after yesterday’s game, in fact, the principal owner George Steinbrenner even said a player’s name.
“There is a guy I prefer but I am not going to talk about it now,” Steinbrenner said as he left with team officials after a 14-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
When asked if that player was Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, Steinbrenner said: “I like Bobby Abreu. Everybody likes Bobby Abreu.”
While there’s always the chance that Big Stein might be confused here and is thinking that “Bobby Abreu” is “Baba Booey” – after all, this is the man who thinks the top of the house is “the ruff” – I have to take this news as a signal that Abreu is beeping pretty hard on the Yankees radar.
Contrary to some who think that I don’t like Abreu’s skills, I do believe that Abreu is a strong offensive player. I even said, two weeks ago, that:
You could bat Abreu second in New York, and just let him take his walks, and then bat Jeter in the 3rd slot.
Of course, there have always been less than great reports on Abreu’s attitude, like this one in the Boston Globe a couple of years ago:
Francona’s message to his players was succinct: I’ll fight for you, as long as you follow my rules. Abreu, an outfielder with a sweet swing, tested Francona’s patience by arriving late to the park. The first time, the manager ushered him into his office and calmly explained tardiness was unacceptable. The second time, the player was fined. The third time, Francona threw Abreu out of the clubhouse.
“Terry wanted to send Bobby home, but the ball club wouldn’t let him,” Mills said. “Even though the front office wouldn’t stand behind him, Terry still found a way to make it work. He stayed on Bobby. He made him a better player.”
Further, I remember a feature in Baseball America during the summer of 2004 that said Abreu, while he has a great all-around game, does not apply himself 100% at all times – according to many teammates (current and former) and opponents.
Then again, in Baseball America’s 2005 “Best Tools” survey, Abreu was voted, by league managers, as the following in the N.L. -
3rd BEST HITTER,
Overall BEST STRIKE-ZONE JUDGMENT, and
3rd BEST BASERUNNER
Big Stein is right. That’s a lot to like there – in terms of an offensive player.
Now, defensively, I’ll defer to the Fielding Bible. There, about Abreu, it says:
…he is a very conservative defender. He has been accused of having lapses in concentration, fear of diving for balls or running into walls on the warning track, and just not giving a maximum effort in the field. He often gets bad jumps on the ball and in the past has let a lot of balls fall in front of him. Great batter? Yup. Great defender? Nope.
According the Bible’s Plus/Minus rankings for 2005, Abreu was Matt Lawton like in right-field last year. But, that was still many points better than Gary Sheffield.
Bottom line, you have to look at who the Yankees have been playing in RF this season since Sheffield went down, what the odds are of Sheffield helping the team if and when he can come back this season, and who the Yankees have to play RF after this season. When you roll that all up, having Bobby Abreu for this season and the two after it may not be the worst thing that can happen to the Yankees.
But, it all comes down to the cost. How many prospects? Who are they? Does a deal for Abreu mean that Melky Cabrera is traded too? Until I know those answers, I cannot say for sure that getting Abreu is the right thing to do this season.