In a minorly surprising move, the Philadelphia Phillies announced Wednesday that Bobby Abreu would not receive a bench position on the team’s opening day roster.
Abreu was clearly the strongest left-handed bat vying for a roster spot, led the team in walks, and hit relatively well in Spring Training, despite being 40-years old. He is the second all-time in Phillies’ history with a .928 OPS, earned during his first tenure with the team between 1998-2006.
The main reason to cut him is his lack of defensive role – he only attempted RF in Grapefruit League games, and struggled greatly up to this afternoon against the Tigers. With both John Mayberry Jr. and Tony Gwynn Jr. looking to take the two bench OF spots, it didn’t appear that there was room for Abreu on a traditional five-man bench.
However, due to Cole Hamels‘ injury and some conveniently scheduled off days, it appears the Phillies will begin the year with a four-man rotation (Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, and Roberto Hernandez). This leaves one roster spot open that could have accommodated Abreu’s bat in pinch hit situations.
The alternative is carrying an additional reliever in the bullpen, to offer extra depth to a pitching staff currently suffering several key injuries (Hamels, Mike Adams, Ethan Martin, Jonathan Pettibone), and a concerning Spring from its closer.
Reports indicate that team officials are attempting to keep Abreu on-board in the minors, as they do see value in his offense. However, as a player well-suited for the American League, the possibility exists that his Spring Training tryout might earn him a Major League job elsewhere.
Abreu hasn’t publicly made a decision about his next move, but his retirement is also a possibility.
Cesar Hernandez and Reid Brignac are the two top remaining options in camp. Brignac has performed well in camp and has average defense from several infield positions, but his bat is almost sure to regress once real games begin.
Hernandez is a switch-hitting internal option, and the team has tried to force him into SS and 3B following Galvis’ injury. He’s performed at those positions to mixed results, is as expected (the same happened last season when he was forced to CF after Ben Revere‘s injury).