Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Bobby Abreu and Some Thoughts on Teixeira

I really want to beat the drum for the Bobby Abreu to the Red Sox hype. So far there is zero interest on both the part of the Sox and their fanbase. I am here to change that. Keep in mind that in order for this to work, Bobby Abreu would need to figure out first base. I trust he can do that.

Now the plan:

Use the RF/3B/DH spots in the lineup to shuffle JD Drew, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, and Bobby Abreu in and out.

How it works:

Simply slide Abreu to first when Mike Lowell can't play and shift Youk to third. If Ortiz or Drew cannot go, shift him to DH or RF respectively. The additional plus is that Drew can play a decent CF and can take over the reigns there when they want to give Ellsbury a day off, and Ellsbury can play left (with Drew in center and Abreu in right) when they want to rest Jason Bay. Wouldn't you rather have Abreu filling the super-sub 1B/OF/DH role than a guy like Brandon Moss?

The other big part of this of course is finding him enough at bats to make him happy. Well given the injury history of Drew, Lowell, and Ortiz I do not think that should be a problem.

First off, figure about 600 at bats a year to be filled by each of the three positions mentioned. All told, that is 1800 at bats a year that need to be occupied. Well last year, Drew, Lowell, and Ortiz combined for just 1202 at bats, leaving about 600 at-bats to give to guys like Coco Crisp, Sean Casey, and Mark Kotsay. Not awful players, but not Bobby Abreu.

Yes, I understand that they may not necessarily need to fill up that many at bats again next year but at the same time are you really so certain? What if Mike Lowell does not come all the way back from hip surgery? What if Ortiz' production continues to drop? Can you really count on JD Drew for 150 games? And furthermore, what if Youkilis sustains the first major injury of his career? I know there are a lot of ifs in there but the AL East is only getting stronger. Better to be prepared with a proven commodity like Abreu than caught with your pants down trying to filter in waiver wire players and guys off the scrap heap. Call me crazy but I think I'd be happier with Abreu at 2 years, $15M than Tex at 8 years and $180M.

Oh, and one more reason to like the idea of Abreu on the Sox.

It keeps him away from the Rays. No joke. The Rays are one of the teams hot on his trail right now - and rightfully so. Could you imagine adding him to their lineup? Pretty big upgrade right? Last year they filled the DH/RF role with castoffs and scrubs like Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, and maybe future Red Sox, Rocco Baldelli. For next year, they have already added Tigers youngster Matt Joyce, he of a 116 OPS+ in 242 at-bats last year who turns 25 in August. Can you imagine if they tacked Abreu on to that as well? All of a sudden that team got MUCH better and did so by trading away their fifth starter, Edwin Jackson and spending a little bit of cash. Yikes. I don't care what additional moves the Yankees make, the Rays if they can add Abreu will be clearly positioning themselves as the favorites in the division next year.

Finally, one last note on Teixeira.

Everything I have said about him maybe makes it sound like I don't think he is a good player. Quite the contrary. I think he is a very good player. What I don't get is how he has all of a sudden become the greatest player in baseball which is how people seem to talk about him.

The last time the Sox doled out a contract on par to what they will probably offer Tex, it was to Manny Ramirez. Not to be flip, but Mark Teixeira of today does not even come close to how good Manny was in the years prior to him signing with the Sox. You can check out the numbers below and try and argue with me, but they really are not close. Yes, Manny was hitting in historically good lineups with the Indians which inflated his RBI numbers but it's not like his entire value was based on RBI either. And while I understand that Teixeira is a far superior defender to Manny, it's not like we are talking about a middle infielder or a centerfielder here. We're talking about a first baseman.

Again, this is not to say that I don't think he will help the team at all. He will be a huge help and assuming they in essence replace Mike Lowell's bat for his I'd say the upgrade should be huge. (Sorry Mikey, I love you but a 35 year old coming off hip surgery is not somebody I hold high hopes for moving forward.)

I also want people to realize that Mark Teixeira at his best - offensively - is Manny Ramirez at his near-best. That's no knock on Tex, but let's just temper our expectations here a little for the guy. He's good, but he is not Manny good.

Mark Teixera Three Year Average (2006-2008):

150 games/.299/31 HR/112 RBI/142 OPS+

Manny Ramirez Three Year Average (1998-2000):

138 games/.326/42 HR/144 RBI/168 OPS+

Manny Ramirez Average Season (2001-2008):

142 games/.316/36 HR/115 RBI/158 OPS+

I think the numbers speak for themselves. It's not a knock on Tex. It's just that Manny was historically good and thinking that Tex could duplicate what Manny did and is his equal is ill-informed. Yes a Tex addition would be great, but don't think we will see Manny Part 2. Instead we'll see Manny-Lite. Not that that is a bad thing, but despite how it all ended we got treated to possibly the greatest 8 season offensive run by a player in a Red Sox uniform we will ever enjoy in our lifetimes. Chances are, nobody will be that good for quite some time.

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