The phrase "age before beauty" can be applied to the decision that the Philadelphia Phillies will have to make on veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu. The former All-Star has an opt-out clause in his minor league contract that allows Abreu to be granted his release if he is not placed on the Phillies' MLB roster by March 26.
Abreu spent nine of his 17 major league seasons with Philadelphia. Before sitting out last season, he spent time with the Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.
Abreu, 39, hit .322 with three homers, 28 RBI and a .877 OPS in 50 games in the Venezuelan League this winter, which was a big reason why Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wanted to take a look at him.
Early on in spring training, Abreu is hitting .133 in 21 plate appearances. A veteran with two hits this spring doesn't look like a good option to have on the bench heading into 2014. However, Abreu still does one thing very well, which he's done his entire career—he gets on base.
Abreu currently has five walks in those 21 plate appearances, giving him a .381 on-base percentage. The veteran outfielder is a .292 career hitter but is also the owner of a .396 career OBP, which ranks among the top 100 all time, according to Baseball Reference.
Philadelphia has struggled getting guys on base over the last couple of seasons, which is part of the reason the Phillies have struggled so much offensively. This is why Abreu made it past the team's first cuts of the spring. Knowing this, manager Ryne Sandberg will be able to get more looks at Abreu as the spring progresses.
In fact, Abreu is making an impression on the Hall of Fame player, now manager.
“He’s having quality at-bats,” Sandberg said to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury. “He’s battling pitchers. He’s been a base runner quite often.”
Abreu is replicating on the field what Sandberg has been preaching since he was given the managerial job. Getting on base as well as running the bases effectively are important parts of the game. From day one, Sandberg preached this method.
Now Abreu, a proven veteran, is proving why Sandberg's message makes sense for the Phillies.
“Working counts and getting on base is a big part of the game,” he said in the same interview with CSN Philly. “I just try to put the ball in play and if they don’t throw me a strike, I don’t swing.”
So what should Phillies fans look for from Abreu until a decision needs to be made?
Expect him to go out and have quality at-bats. Be sure to not put an emphasis on the batting average. Instead, look at the amount of pitches he is seeing per at-bat. Look at his OBP, see if he still has a keen eye at the plate.
If Abreu can play acceptable defense and continue to have a consistent arm in the outfield, then the coaching staff will need to put Abreu on the MLB roster. He would likely be their go-to, left-handed bat off of the bench as well as a designated hitter during interleague play.
Abreu is making it tough for the Phillies to cut him, which is not a bad thing for a determined ballclub.
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