A story in yesterday's Houston Chronicle confirmed the offense-starved Astros have their sights set on acquiring Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu.
The Chronicle also reported teams have inquired about closer Brad Lidge. Also mentioned, but less likely to be involved, are starter Brandon Backe and relievers Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler.
Thanks to Beerleaguer reader Richie of Ashburn for passing this story along.
I’ll assume Abreu is still being shopped. Otherwise, his name wouldn’t have circulated around baseball this way, and it wouldn’t have made sense to tender Jason Michaels and keep Shane Victorino, fourth and fifth outfielders, when they could have filled more pressing holes by dealing them. One possibility could have been a swap with San Diego to obtain the Adam Eaton-headlined package they sent to Texas. We could have used some of that.
But Michaels and Victorino could be effective in Abreu's place. The's no shortage of outfielders in the Phillies system. Outfield isn't a problem. They could even go straight-away with the switch-hitting Vicorino and deal Michaels.
Outfield isn't a problem, but it is for Houston. The names in the Houston paper aren’t sexy, but let’s examine them. They include Wheeler, Qualls, and also Lidge.
Just one of them would be a significant improvement in the Phillies bullpen, almost to the point where they'd have a strong pen instead of a questionable one. Then there's starter Brandon Backe. Not much of a fan. But even if Backe gets thrown in with, say, Wheeler and a legit starting prospect (good GMs always snag one), look what the Phillies are left with:
Wheeler to set up
Backe for 4-5 starter
Michaels, Victorino or both in RF
Phillies give up:
Tejeda (just for jags)
The Phillies led the league in OBP last season, thanks in no small part to Abreu. They can spare it. Michaels can reach base and Victorino was good in triple-A.
I like the potential for Victorino's speed at No. 2, because the starting lineup, as it stands, is a lumbering mess. Kenny Lofton was very good in this spot, helping the secondary average (a measure of running between bases).
I've never been as high on Michaels as some, and feel he’s been overvalued this offseason. He's a poor base-runner, but it's fine to allow him the same ABs as last season, about 1/3 of the at bats. I still like the idea of dealing him, possibly to Boston now.
Together, Michaels and Victorino have the potential to be better defenders than Abreu, and will be less likely to wear down. It’s also beneficial that these guys are fighting for a chance. They are hungry, whereas Abreu plays indifferently.
Defensively, right and right-center would be impossible to gap with Rowand patrolling center field. I’m not sure fans are prepared for the significant upgrade Rowand brings defensively. One could make a strong argument he’s a top 3 outfielder in all of baseball. Nothing but rave reviews for Victorino's glove. These are the small things that have not been a part of the Phillies in a long time, but have helped win division titles for the Minnesota Twins.
What would the Phillies do with the money saved from all this? What pitcher could they afford? Just about anyone that became available, I suppose.
I wouldn't rule out a third team like Los Angeles getting involved in a deal this size. Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said on WIP that multiple teams have been trying to hook up since the winter meetings. In this case, we could be looking at an even bigger upgrade for the bullpen or starting rotatoin. Perhaps a pitcher like Duaner Sanchez would come to town along with a reliever from Houston.
The last reason Pat Gillick should move Abreu applies to any trade scenario: It's time to trade Bobby Abreu.
There will be tremendous pressure on Bobby to perform next season, unlike any he’s ever known. He's been involved with so many exciting rumors; any Abreu gaff will make fans question why he wasn’t dealt for pitching. With Jim Thome gone, he is the team’s highest-paid player, their best pure hitter and centerpiece.
I haven't seen anything to indicate he can handle the expectations; actually, just the opposite. The first person that throws his OPS with RISP into the comment thread will have his Beerleaguer subscription revoked. Please look deeper. Please think baseball, game-by-game, inning-by-inning, AB-by-AB. Consider the intangibles instead of numbers this time. Refresh my memory of this town's expectations of star athletes. Refresh my memory on which players the Phans cheer for most.
The question isn't what the Phillies can get in return, it's "Can the Phillies replace his production?" Production can be divided into all aspects of the team. If Abreu can be flipped for a little relief, another starting arm, an open door for better defense and youth, a prospect to be groomed and a little coin saved, would Gillick be willing to trade away his best pure hitter?
It’s happened before.