The Return Of Bobby Abreu


Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It was 2003.  The final season at Veterans Stadium.  The Phillies were an up-and-coming team in search of an identity.  The starting outfield consisted of three players – Bobby Abreu, Marlon Byrd and Pat Burrell – Phillies fans thought had long since passed into the annals of team history.  But, alas…

Bobby Abreu and Phillies agreed to a one year, Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp.  If Abreu makes the team, the contract is worth $800,000.  Abreu has not seen action in the majors since 2012 when he played with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This is a classic, low risk, high reward signing that gives the Phillies some much needed depth as a left-handed bat coming off the bench.  In all likelihood, Abreu will get a substantial amount of playing time in Spring Training to see how much is left in the tank.

Abreu, who turns 40 on March 11, had an outstanding season for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan League this winter.  He hit .322 with 10 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs, and 28 RBI in 180 regular season plate appearances.  He followed that up with a spectacular postseason.  In 15 games, he hit .464/.549/1.214 with 8 home runs and 5 doubles.  Definitely eye-catching numbers from a former All-Star who many thought was washed up.

Abreu was a star with the Phillies from 1998-2006.  During that period, he was one of the most durable players in the majors, always playing at least 150 games per season.  His numbers were stellar as well.  He hit .303 with 195 home runs during that stretch.  He also perennially carried an on-base percentage well over .400.

It was during the 2006 season, that then-general manager Pat Gillick decided that an underachieving team with budding young stars, needed a change in clubhouse chemistry.  In July of that season, Abreu, along with right-handed pitcher Cory Lidle, were traded to the New York Yankees for what amounted to a giant tub of sunflower seeds.  It was a salary dump as much as anything.  Two years later, the Phillies were World Series Champions.

As it stands, Abreu will battle John Mayberry, Jr. and Darin Ruf for a reserve outfield spot on the roster.  Unless Ruf has an unreal Spring Training, he seems to be the odd man out.  He has minor league options remaining while Mayberry just signed a guaranteed one-year contract.

While Abreu is nowhere near the player he once was, if he is anywhere near the player he was in Venezuela this winter, the Phillies can be getting quite the bargain.  He is the type of player that the Phillies need on their bench.  The anti-Michael Martinez, if you will.  The type of player who can work a ten pitch at-bat and get on base in a late-inning situation.

If this signing works out in the Phillies’ favor, general manager Ruben Amaro will be praised for a stroke-of-genius.  If it doesn’t, he will be panned once again, for signing an over-the-hill, has-been to a team in desperate need of youth.

Maybe Pat Burrell‘s phone will ring next.  Then the reunion will be complete.