Reports last night suggested that the Angels and Indians were working on a deal that would ship Bobby Abreu’s discontented soul to Cleveland. The deal has apparently fallen apart, and right now, it doesn’t look like Abreu’s going to get his wish to get out of Anaheim. However, Buster Olney raised an interesting question this morning:
Just a thought: If CLE willing to trade for Abreu to platoon in LF, why not sign Johnny Damon, who had a better year in ’11?
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 30, 2012
Abreu and Damon are four months apart in age, so the Indians apparent willingness to acquire Abreu rules out the idea of Damon being too old for the Tribe. They’re also pretty similar players at this point in this point in their careers.
Abreu, 2011: .253/.353/.365, 104 wRC+
Damon, 2011: .261/.326/.418, 109 wRC+
Damon’s walk rate diminished quite a bit last year, but he’s been able to hold onto more of his power than Abreu has, so the differences mostly cancel out. If we go back and include data from 2010, the numbers get even more similar – Abreu’s wRC+ is 111 compared to Damon’s 109.
And, since Travis Hafner is taking up the DH role for Cleveland, defense needs to be a factor as well, as the Indians are shopping for a part-time left fielder. Damon still can’t throw a ball more than 30 feet without inspiring a round of laughs, but he’s certainly got more range than Abreu at this point, and would also be the better defensive option. Really, it’s hard to make a case for Abreu being a better option than Damon for 2012, especially given Abreu’s apparently belief that he’s still deserving of an everyday job. If you’re picking up a part-time outfielder, it might help if that guy understands that he’s a part-time outfielder, and isn’t going to whine to the press when he’s not in the line-up everyday.
The main difference between the two at this point might be cost. It’s pretty likely that the Angels were going to pick up almost all of Abreu’s salary to help facilitate him going away, while Damon might not be willing to play for something close to $1 million. But, the Indians have already shown that they’re willing to bring in a Damon-style player to fill a need, so if he’s interested in continuing his career, perhaps he should call up Chris Antonetti and see just what kind of offer they’d make him.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.