Wednesday, February 11, 2009

By David Saltzer - Columnist

Let’s face it, as an Angels fan, this hasn’t been the most exciting offseason of the 21st century for our team. But, all of that could change if the rumor mill is true.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are expected to sign Bobby Abreu to a one-year contract "by the start of spring training Saturday." The newspaper reports that Abreu is scheduled to undergo a physical exam Wednesday and the Angels are expected to waive Nick Green to make room on the 40-man roster. A native of Venezuela, Bobby Abreu carries a potent left-hand stick—something that the Angels definitely need.

Ideally, a #2 hitter should have a blend of speed and power with a high OB%. This gives the leadoff hitter time to try and swipe a base or get knocked into scoring position for the heart of the order. Typically, left-handers make the ideal #2 hitter because they get a bit of an advantage to pull the ball when the leadoff hitter is on-base. We haven’t had a hitter like that in many years, and, the offense has suffered as a result.

Abreu fits our need for a #2 hitter perfectly and makes our lineup much stronger. He provides a great blend of speed and power (stealing over 20 bases for the past 10 years in addition to hitting 15 or more HRs for the past 11 years) who would fit into “Angels=style” baseball. He could rotate between both LF and RF and take a share in the DH spots.

With Abreu in our lineup, we finally have that offensive bridge between Figgins and Vlad that would make the top of our order click as a unit. The heart of the order becomes much more settled with Hunter, Morales and Napoli. And the bottom of the order settles down with Rivera, Wood and Kendrick.

According to the Angels’ front office, they want to “let the kids play.” Odds are that means we will be breaking in 2 players (my bet is that both Morales and Wood earn starting jobs during Spring Training) into the lineup. The best way to do that is to take the pressure off of the younger hitters by having productive and established hitters to shoulder a good portion of the load. By signing Abreu, we would be giving our kids every chance to succeed rather than throwing them into a sink-or-swim environment (as we have often done to rookies in the past). We could afford to give Wood and Morales a guaranteed half a season each to develop rather than having to make constant lineup changes if they struggle.

Last year, we all saw how our Vlad become much more beastly with the addition of Teixeira. Well, adding Abreu will have a similar (although not quite as dramatic) effect on Vlad as he will have more ABs with men on base and in scoring position. With Abreu behind him, Figgy should return close to his 2007 performance. A resurgent Figgy means that Wood and Kendrick would see better pitches hitting in the bottom of the order. And, Morales is much more likely to succeed when batting between Hunter and Napoli with an improved top and bottom to the order.

In the Scioscia era, we’ve had to cobble together some strange lineups to essentially force square pegs into round holes—especially when it has come to our #2 hitter. But, all of that could change for 2009 with the addition of Abreu added to the top of the order. The stability that he would bring to our lineup would pay dividends far greater than just a 1-year contract. Signing Abreu would make 2009’s lineup much better as well as making our kids better for the future. And that makes signing him a good deal.
Love to hear what you think!

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