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Abreu now a bargain buy?

By jcfortun Published: February 3, 2009

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times recently conducted an interview with Houston Astros General Manager Ed Wade about free agent outfielder Bobby Abreu.

Abreu is one of the best available free agents on the market and someone that Wade knows all too well from their time together in Philadelphia.

While Kepner's post does not say much in the way of where Abreu will be playing next year, it does offer some interesting comparisons to former Phillie Aaron Rowand.

I found this passage the most interesting:

“Aaron Rowand is an outstanding player and he brings that blue-collar type of energy to the field, and that’s great. Fans gravitate to that, especially in Philadelphia. Bobby’s so good at what he does and so smooth at doing it, he tends to be underappreciated,” Wade told Kepner.

That would seem to be the case on the free-agent market, in which Abreu, who turns 35 in March, has not yet found a deal comparable to the Phillies’ Raul Ibanez (three years, $31.5 million) or the Cubs’ Milton Bradley (three years, $30 million) – not to mention the five-year, $60 million contract Rowand received from the Giants last winter.

I have always enjoyed watching Rowand for the very same reasons that Wade states. He plays all out, all the time. Yet I find it hard to understand how he is making more money than Bradley, Ibanez and most likely Abreu.

Rowand signed his contract after last season with the San Francisco Giants. Bradley and Ibanez were both signed in the offseason.

To make matters even more interesting Roger Rubin, of the New York Daily News, is reporting that Abreu has just recieved an offer from the Chicago White Sox. The deal: One year, $8 million.

Rubin reports that Abreu is only recieving one-year offers.

Rowand's contract is back-loaded according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, meaning Rowand was paid $8 million last season. He will get $8 million this season and $12 million a year for the remaining three years.

Last season Abreu hit .296 with 20 home runs and 100 RBI in 156 games in the pressure cooker that is New York. His On base percentage as .371 and OPS was .872.

In Rowand’s seven seasons he has had just two years where he has hit above .300 and had 20 home runs (2004 and 2007). Rowand has never driven in 100 runs in a season, something Abreu has done six times. Rowand did hit.309 with 27 home runs in his contract season of 2007.

Abreu, who hits left, is a middle of the order type hitter with a career on base percentage of .405. His career OPS is .903. Rowand, a right-handed hitter, only bats in the middle of the San Francisco Giants order because of necessity. Does the three-four combination of Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand scare anyone? Ray Durham was once in that mix too. Rowand has a career .342 OBP and .795 OPS.

Rowand’s contract was signed last off-season and it is quite obvious that the unstable economy has contributed to less money being offered across major league baseball.

Rowand is 31 years old, while Abreu is 34. One argument could be made that the Giants aren’t exactly intelligent with its free agent signings. See: Zito, Barry; Johnson, Randy, Renteria, Edgar; etc. That is besides the point though.

Yet Ibanez’s contract makes Abreu’s situation even more puzzling. Ibanez is 36-years old and the Phillies gave him a three-year deal for $31.5 million. Ibanez, a left-handed hitter, received a $2 million signing bonus for this season to go along with his $6.5 million base salary. He will receive &11.5 million for the remaining two seasons, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.

His 2008 numbers are nearly identical to Abreu’s: 23 homers, .293 batting average with a lower OBP (.358) and OPS (.857). Career wise, Ibanez does not offer as much as Abreu does. He has a career .346 OBP and a OPS of .818.

Milton Bradley, a switch hitter, hit 22 home runs last year with a .321 average to earn his three-year, $30 million deal. Most impressive was Bradley’s .436 OBP. Bradley is only 30 years old, but has had a bevy of off the field problems.

Fielding wise, Rowand is the best of the group, but I feel his plus defense weighs out compared to a middle-of the-order type bat. Abreu isn’t a bad defender either.

I know this is only a light look at their numbers and true value, but I think it is pretty clear that Abreu has just as much value, if not more, than these three guys. So why is Abreu still sitting on the sidelines with less money and years being offered?

Although the Indians have closed the checkbook this off season, is this a player that the Indians should at least consider. Right now he is only being offered one-year, $8 million bargain from the Indians Central Division rival, Chicago. That is at least enough to consider a look by Shapiro.

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