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Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Abreu should help other Angels in lineup


The Angels might have been disappointed when a frequent October rival, the Yankees, stole free agent Mark Teixeira away from them in December … but they exacted a bit of revenge Wednesday in agreeing to a one-year deal with ex-Yankee Bobby Abreu.

Bobby Abreu
Bobby Abreu is currently projected as the No. 20 outfielder in ESPN's fantasy rankings.
It can hardly be considered a straight-up swap; Teixeira has managed the higher OPS of the two in three of the past four seasons, and is widely considered the better run producer. Abreu, by comparison, is an on-base whiz with the better speed of the two.

But more importantly for the Angels, Abreu provides a veteran top-third-of-the-lineup bat, something the team so desperately needed in the wake of the free-agent departures of Teixeira and Garret Anderson. That was 168 runs scored and 205 RBIs out the door -- or 62 and 74 if you want to count the 56 games Teixeira was on the roster -- that production is not something you can afford to give up when you were a team that ranked 15th in baseball in runs scored in 2008.

That helps explain the logic to adding Abreu to an already-cluttered outfield picture that features Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews Jr., and Juan Rivera, among a handful of reserve candidates. Only two other free agents might have offered more punch to this team: Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn, both fellow outfielders. Guerrero and Hunter owners might sweat an Abreu addition, but in reality, Abreu's arrival probably enhances their value more than hurts it.

Chances are Abreu will slide in as the left fielder and in the No. 2 spot in the Angels' order, a spot which was occupied by Anderson on 20 of 26 games in September and in all four games of the team's Division Series loss to the Red Sox. If not, he'd surely bat third, directly ahead of Guerrero and Hunter, bats the team can't afford to ever sit.

AL Minute

Bobby Abreu's signing wasn't the only thing happening in the American League. Molly Qerim has more news and notes from around the league in Wednesday's AL Minute.

It'd be a noticeable upgrade; Abreu had a .371 on-base percentage in 2008, while the Angels' No. 2 hitters combined for a .302 number in the category. With Chone Figgins and Abreu batting ahead of them, Guerrero and Hunter should see noticeably more RBI opportunities than they did a year ago, when they managed totals of 91 and 78, respectively, in the category. A Figgins-Abreu-Guerrero-Hunter top four might actually prove underrated.

Matthews and, to a lesser extent, Rivera, are the clear losers as a result of Abreu's arrival. Matthews sported the lowest OPS of anyone on the team with at least 450 plate appearances (.675), and he ranked 14th-worst in all of baseball in that group, behind such luminaries as Gregor Blanco, Brendan Harris and Marco Scutaro. Matthews might bring quality defense to a contending team like this, but he's better used in a fourth- or fifth-outfielder role, coming in as a defensive replacement late or giving a starter an occasional rest. Rivera, by comparison, has the kind of power potential that makes him an attractive designated hitter candidate, if not a starter ahead of Abreu against tough left-handers.

Speaking of the DH, that's another significant advantage of adding Abreu; the Angels can slide the aging Guerrero to that spot to give him some rest perhaps two or three times per week. That might help him hold up over the course of the long season, perhaps increasing his chances at matching or exceeding 2008's 143 games played.

As for Abreu himself, departing the loaded Yankee lineup, where he typically batted third between Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, a dream circumstance for a fantasy player, seems certain to hurt his numbers somewhat. But if the Angels use him properly, there's no reason he can't at least challenge 2008's 100 runs scored, 22 stolen bases and a .296 batting average. It's his RBI potential that might tail off somewhat, especially if he bats second; having an Erick Aybar-type and Figgins batting ahead of him instead of Johnny Damon and Jeter might lead to a drop off of a dozen RBIs or so.

That's still a top-15 fantasy outfielder, perhaps a candidate for the top 50 overall. It's just not the type of player you should reach for at higher prices than that.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball, football and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.