With reports of a one-year, $5 million deal between free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu and the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, the team that critics and rivals suddenly said was starting to look vulnerable is once again the class of the American League West.
Sure, Abreu is no Mark Teixeira, but there are very few players in the majors of that quality. However, the soon-to-be 35-year-old veteran is enough of an upgrade from former outfielder Garret Anderson that the pressure on Kendry Morales to deliver a 30-home run campaign will be significantly lower.
Over the course of his 13-year major league career, Abreu has done one thing consistently: get on base. His career OBP of .405 is exactly what the Angels so desperately need in the No. 3 slot in the order.
Before the arrival of Teixeira last July, the Angels had a problem with getting runners on ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, and Anderson. This led to a run-scoring drought of epic proportions in the months of May and June, when the club averaged an anemic 3.7 runs per game.
After Big Tex's arrival, the team developed a much more consistent attack, averaging 4.8 runs per game over the final two months of the season.
With the addition of Abreu, the Angels keep a guy who can hurt you with the long ball ahead of Guerrero, but also a guy who is not afraid to work the count and take a walk, which was the biggest knock on Anderson from both fans and sabermetricians.
The one knock on Abreu now is that his defense isn’t quite what it used to be. With Hunter in center covering ground, Guerrero coming back healthy after a recurrence of knee issues and Juan Rivera in the mix to give him an occasional day in the DH slot, the concerns should be lessened.
Also, the signing gives the Angels a top half of the lineup that combines speed (Chone Figgins), pure hitting (Howie Kendrick), power, and run production.
Should the season start today, the projected lineup would go Figgins, Kendrick, Abreu, Guerrero, Hunter, Rivera, Morales, Mike Napoli and the platoon of Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis.
Granted, that's not the star-laden bunch that costs $200 million a year in New York. However, in the AL West, it doesn't have to be, especially not when it is combined with arguably the deepest starting rotation in the league.
Bottom line: Abreu's acquisition should end most of the questions about the Angels for 2009, aside from the usual speculation on whether they can win in October.