The New York Mets purchased the contract of outfield veteran Bobby Abreu on Monday, according to a team announcement, while optioning outfielder Andrew Brown to Triple-A Las Vegas.
The move wasn't entirely shocking, given Abreu's success and Brown's struggles this season. Abreu posted a .395/.489/.579 slash line at Triple-A prior to his call-up, along with nine RBI and five extra base hits in 38 at-bats, while Brown had a .567 OPS with the big league club. Then, when you add Abreu's April 30 opt-out clause to the equation, the move became essentially a no-brainer.
Yet there are plenty of red flags when it comes to Abreu, who hasn't played in the majors since 2012, a year in which he played in only 100 games. He also hasn't hit above .255 since 2009, and he managed just three homers in 219 at-bats in 2012.
One of the most concerning issues, as Amazin' Avenue's Nick Walsh writes, is that the move makes the Mets a little too lefty-friendly:
It is worth noting that this transaction leaves Josh Satin and Anthony Recker as the only right-handed bats on the Mets' bench. With Brown hitting so poorly, though, it is a low-risk move. If Abreu does not hit, the team is right back where it started and is free to try another option.
There are also further complications to the move, according to NJ.com's Mike Vorkunov:
To add Abreu to the roster, the Mets will have to make a corresponding move with their active and 40 man rosters because Abreu was signed as a minor league free agent. To add him to the 40 man roster they could move Bobby Parnell to the 60-day DL to open a spot, but would still need to demote someone from the current team on the active roster.
Perhaps the most concerning issue, something that surfaced in spring training this season and may have ultimately led to his release from the Phillies, is Abreu's lack of athleticism. Nevertheless, via CBS New York, Abreu believes he's in okay shape:
Some said Abreu appeared sluggish in the field during spring training with Philadelphia. But the Mets have a glut of athletic outfielders — including Chris Young, Eric Young Jr. and Curtis Granderson — who can cover plenty of ground when the Mets have Abreu, a left-handed batter, in the lineup. Center fielder Juan Lagares is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
"I lost a lot of weight," Abreu recently told the New York Times. "I don’t know how much. Just a lot."
Abreu has been raking at Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting .395 with one home run, four doubles and nine RBIs in 15 games.
"He’s still Bobby Abreu," Triple-A manager Wally Backman told the Times.
The Mets (9-9) have the lowest batting average in the National League at .224. They also have the most strikeouts (177) and are near the bottom of the barrel with 12 home runs.
Yet despite the potential obstacles and concerns that Abreu's promotion creates, the fact remains that Abreu is still, well, Bobby Abreu. A .292 career hitter, he sports a .396 career OBP, and his pop is nothing to scoff at either. With 287 career homers and a .477 slugging percentage, Abreu can certainly leave the yard at any time, though that ability has certainly diminished since his prime.
ESPN New York's Adam Rubin writes that while Abreu will primarily serve as a pinch-hitter, he'll also see time in the starting lineup:
Terry Collins plans to use Abreu as a lefty pinch-hit threat for the bench, but will give him some time in the outfield as well in order to keep him sharp. When the Mets play in American League ballparks (next, May 12-13 in the Bronx), Abreu can serve as designated hitter.
"In order to stay sharp, he's got to get some at-bats," Collins said. "I'm going to try to pick some days to get him in the outfield."
Collins added that it made sense to demote the righty-hitting Brown over lefty-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis because the Mets needed a backup to Chris Young capable of playing center field while Juan Lagares is on the disabled list. Righty-hitting Josh Satin was insulated from demotion consideration because he can back up third base.
It's anyone's best guess as to how Abreu will perform, especially taking into consideration his lack of playing time in the majors since his last full season, back in 2011. However, Abreu's greatest asset, his plate discipline, is a skill that doesn't diminish over time. Whether he's 40 or 25, Abreu knows how to get on base, albeit at a slightly lesser rate than before. Whether he can translate that ability into a successful stint with the Mets this season remains to be seen.