The Abreu Impact

The Angels spent most of the winter declaring that 2009 was the season when they were finally going to give their young kids a real shot, and used that as an explanation for why they weren’t active in replacing Mark Teixeira after he headed to the Yankees and told Garret Anderson to enjoy the rest of his career elsewhere. However, with the price for Bobby Abreu crashing through the floor, they couldn’t pass up a deal when they saw one, and have reportedly signed him to a one year, $5 million-ish deal.

From a pure dollars per win standpoint, this is obviously a good move. Even with Abreu’s defensive decline, he’s still something like a +2 to +2.5 win player, so the Angels are paying just a couple of million per win in this deal. If he puts them over the top and helps them win the AL West, the return on those dollars could be in the 500% range. It’s money well spent.

However, it creates some interesting questions in LA. They already re-signed Juan Rivera to a three year contract earlier this winter, and obviously Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero are going to play when healthy. Plus, there’s guys like Gary Matthews Jr and Reggie Willits hanging around as reserve outfielders already on the roster. There had also been talk of moving Chone Figgins to the OF to make room for Brandon Wood, one of the young kids who the Angels had been saying was going to get a real chance to prove himself in the majors this year. So, how do they sort all this out?

Let’s take a look at the five positions that are related here – LF, CF, RF, 3B, and DH. Between those five spots, the Angels have something like 3,500 plate appearances to hand out. 2,500 or so will be against RHP, with the other 1,000 coming against LHP, assuming a 70/30 split. Let’s start filling up those PA totals with one potential option.

RF – Guerrero, 375 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
RF – Abreu, 125 PA vs RHP, 50 vs LHP

CF – Hunter, 450 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
CF – Matthews, 50 PA vs RHP, 50 PA vs LHP

LF – Abreu, 250 PA vs RHP, 75 PA vs LHP
LF – Rivera, 125 PA vs RHP, 100 PA vs LHP
LF – Matthews, 125 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP

DH – Rivera, 200 PA vs RHP, 100 PA vs LHP
DH – Abreu, 125 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP
DH – Figgins, 75 PA vs RHP, 25 vs LHP
DH – Guerrero, 50 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP
DH – Wood, 50 PA vs RHP, 25 PA vs LHP

3B – Figgins, 400 PA vs RHP, 125 PA vs LHP
3B – Wood, 100 PA vs RHP, 75 PA vs LHP

Total by Player:

Guerrero: 425 PA vs RHP, 175 PA vs LHP
Hunter: 450 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
Abreu: 500 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
Rivera: 325 PA vs RHP, 200 PA vs LHP
Figgins: 475 PA vs RHP, 150 PA vs LHP
Matthews: 175 PA vs RHP, 75 PA vs LHP
Wood: 150 PA vs RHP, 100 PA vs LHP

That’s one way that the Angels could potentially distribute the 3,500 PA they’ll get from those five positions. As you can see, the regular line-up would include Guerrero, Hunter, Abreu, Rivera, and Figgins, with Matthews and Wood relegated to backup duties.

The problem, however, is that if you’re consistently starting Guerrero, Rivera, and Abreu, two of those three have to play the outfield. That’s just not going to be a pretty sight to watch, and the pitching staff will take a hit with that kind of outfield defense behind them.

Abreu will help the Angels offense – that’s not in question. However, there are roster issues here that need to be worked out. In reality, the at-bats Abreu is going to get are coming from Gary Matthews (which downgrades the defense) and from Brandon Wood (which stalls his development, again). The marginal impact of Abreu’s presence on the team, while taking playing time from those two, is probably in the +1 win range.

This is a good move for the Angels. Adding a +2 win player, who is about +1 win better than your current alternatives, for $5 million in a season where you’re expecting to contend is a move that you should make. But this isn’t a huge upgrade for the Angels – it’s a marginal improvement, and one that could potentially cause some other issues.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Did you really just say Abreu is only +1 win better than GMJ/Wood?