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January 23, 2014

Skewed Left

Bobby Abreu, the Phillies, and Other Reunions That Might Make Sense

by Zachary Levine


Since the 1998 realignment—and by the way, it's always nice when your arbitrary endpoint stat starts being interesting in 1947, 1961, 1969, 1973, 1995 or 1998 so you can disguise its arbitrariness—only one National League team has had three position players compile 40-plus wins above replacement (full list here). And now Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and yes, Bobby Abreu are together again in Philadelphia, making this one of the more notable reunions for nostalgia's sake, if not any 2014 on-field impact.

Abreu signed a minor league deal with the Phillies this week and managed to avoid most of the snark that usually accompanies such signings of old players. For one thing, even though we're sometimes bad at this (see Young, Delmon) it was just a minor league deal. Also, the Phillies' standard in the public eye for their old signings is low enough that this one looks okay by comparison, and their outfield had a hole to fill. Mostly, I think, it's that unlike Young and some of the other aged relics, Abreu is somebody we actually like.

He's always been a saber-fave, easy to pump up for underappreciated skills (like his .396 career on-base percentage) and a sympathetic case when he's criticized for things that don't matter (like his reputation for not wanting to run into walls in Philadelphia, unfortunately juxtaposed against Aaron Rowand).

Mostly, he was just supremely consistent. His eight full years in Philadelphia sorted by WARP: 6.8, 5.5, 5.4, 5.3, 5.2, 5.2, 5.1, 3.9.

Phillies fans had an odd relationship with Abreu, mostly underappreciating him, but this feels like a perfect time for a reunion. The team is going nowhere, expectations are the lowest they’ve been in a decade, and players of his type are becoming more appreciated. Who knows, maybe it will work out terribly and just serve to distract from the real problems with the team. Reunions aren’t always wonderful things. Ken Griffey Jr.’s was a snooze in Seattle. Babe Ruth was bad back in Boston, albeit the NL side of town, in his twilight.

But there have been a few already this offseason. Abreu’s teammate from 2002 to 2005, Marlon Byrd, is also back in the Phillies’ outfield. And what the Phillies have been doing to the outfield, the Astros have been doing to their bullpen, getting the band back together from their mid-aughts glory-ish years with Chad Qualls and Matt Albers returning. Jason Kubel went home to the Twins, and LaTroy Hawkins went back to the Rockies, though he would have been reuniting with pretty much anybody at this point.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (01/23)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Skewed Left: The Histo... (01/16)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Saying Go... (01/30)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (01/23)

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