Out of left field, Abreu joins Angels
Left-handed-hitting free agent takes one-year, $5 million deal
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have upgraded their offense with some left-handed muscle and speed on the eve of Spring Training, bringing veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu into the fold as a free agent.
Abreu, a career .300 hitter with a .405 on-base percentage across 13 Major League seasons with three clubs, agreed to terms on Thursday on a one-year deal for $5 million plus performance bonuses that could push it over $6 million.
To make room for Abreu on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Nick Green was placed on waivers and claimed by the Brewers.
"I'm so happy to sign with the Angels," Abreu said on a conference call, en route to his native Venezuela from Southern California after meeting with club officials and passing a physical exam. "I'm happy to have the opportunity to be on one of the teams that's going to have the opportunity to be in the playoffs and win the championship. I'm very excited about it."
Abreu, who expects to play left field primarily with Vladimir Guerrero entrenched in right, admitted to some disappointment over not finding a multiyear offer in free agency. He'd entered free agency for the first time after playing most recently for the Yankees and hoping to draw a three-year deal in the $50 million range, but a sluggish market loaded with quality outfielders made that impossible.
"I knew it was late, like one week to the start of Spring Training," Abreu said. "Everybody [has] their team already set up. One year is fine with me. I have a job and a team to be competitive, and I can show some things."
Abreu, who will be 35 on March 11, said the deal came together quickly with the Angels, "in one day," after his agent, Peter Greenberg, called the Angels to inquire about their interest.
"We felt Bobby's overall package made a lot of sense for us," said general manager Tony Reagins. "We were content going into Spring Training with the club we had in place. What this does is it makes our club better -- and we'll continue to look at opportunities to make our club better."
The Angels essentially chose Abreu over Garret Anderson, an Angels star for 14 seasons also in the free-agent market. Anderson was the last everyday player remaining from the 2002 World Series championship outfit.
Abreu is enthused about the prospect of hitting in front of fellow outfielders Guerrero and Torii Hunter after batting .296 with 100 runs scored, 20 home runs and 100 RBIs in 156 games for the Yankees in 2008.
"Their lineup is a solid lineup," Abreu said. "With Vladimir and Torii Hunter, those guys can drive in some runs. I can do my thing: get on base, score some runs, steal some bases. Being on base for Vladdy and Torii Hunter, we're going to score some runs. With the quality pitching we have now, they're going to feel more comfortable on the mound and do better than they have so far."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated that Abreu probably will bat second, between leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins and Guerrero.
"The biggest thing he brings is offensive continuity," Scioscia said. "He's a guy you can bring to the top of the lineup with the ability to work counts, get on base and run the bases. We're looking at Bobby as a nice fit between Chone and Vlad."
Abreu joins Guerrero, Hunter and Juan Rivera in what figures to be a four-man rotation for the three outfield spots and designated hitter.
The signing of Abreu on the heels of free-agent acquisitions of Hunter last winter and Gary Matthews Jr. after the 2006 season gives the Angels six proven outfielders, with Reggie Willits also available.
Abreu is in an exclusive club, joining Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson as the only players to amass 200 homers and 300 stolen bases while maintaining a .400 on-base percentage.
"Bobby is a great fit for us with his athletic abilities," Reagins said. "He can run the bases, produces runs and impacts our lineup in a significant way. He brings some balance to our lineup -- that's important. With his approach, he sees a lot of pitches. He's an aggressive player, a professional."
Sciosica said Abreu can play both corner-outfield spots and can fill in if necessary in center. But the latter is unlikely given the presence of Matthews and Willits as backups to Hunter, the eight-time Gold Glove outfielder.
Abreu is on Venezuela's provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic and plans to be in right field for that competition, which begins March 5. When he settles into camp with the Angels in Tempe, Ariz., he said he'll focus on more unfamiliar turf in left field.
"I have to do a lot of work in Spring Training in left field," said Abreu, who has spent most of his career in right. "It's a different corner, a different position. I believe I'm going to DH once in a while, but most of the time I'll be in left field. When Vladdy is DH, I'll play right field. I like to be on the field most of the time."
Switch-hitter Kendry Morales, expected to replace Mark Teixeira at first base, had been the only left-handed bat with power in the lineup.
"Bobby is one of the few guys who has the potential to score 100 runs and drive in 100," Scioscia said. "Any time you have the opportunity to add batter's-box offense like he brings, it's big. Bobby gives us a much deeper look offensively.
"Bobby is going to work out in left field a little bit, let Juan Rivera be a swing man, and Bobby can play right. We have confidence they can do the job defensively wherever we put them."
Abreu has stolen 22 or more bases for the past 10 seasons. He came to the Yankees in 2006 after 8 1/2 seasons with the Phillies, having started his career with the Astros in 1996.
Abreu has produced at least 100 runs batted in across eight of his past nine seasons and has delivered 20 or more homers in eight of the past 10 seasons.
Anderson, 36, became a regular with the Angels in 1995, one year before Abreu arrived on the Major League scene in Houston.
Abreu, along with his .300 average, owns a .405 lifetime on-base percentage and .498 slugging percentage in 6,490 at-bats.
Anderson's comparable numbers are .296/.327/.469 in 7,989 at-bats. Anderson has more hits, total bases, homers and runs batted in than Abreu, but Abreu has scored more runs and stolen more bases.
Defensively, Anderson was rated the fifth best left fielder in the Majors in a survey of nine experts in the 2009 Bill James Handbook, while Abreu did not rank among 24 right fielders.
Abreu has been the more durable player, playing at least 151 games over the past 11 seasons. Anderson was just as durable as Abreu from 1996 through 2003, but injuries have cost him significant time in two of the past five seasons.
No Draft pick compensation is required for Abreu, a Type A free agent who was not offered arbitration by the Yankees. They picked up his $16 million option for 2008, Abreu completing a six-year, $76 million deal he signed with the Phillies in 2002.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.