Positional players haven’t even reported to Spring Training yet, but they are already starting some drama. With the addition of Albert Pujols and the return from injury of Kendrys Morales, the Angels find themselves with too many bats and not enough roster spots (a problem I’m sure plenty of teams would enjoy). Bobby Abreu, who we discussed on Tuesday as the odd man out in the new loaded Angels lineup, has apparently heard the rumors about him getting relegated to pinch hitting and spot starting this season, and he is not too happy about it. Abreu won’t be joining the team until Saturday when he flies in for his physical and starting practice next Monday, but he gave an interview from his home in Venezuela to let the team know just how he’s feeling.
"“I’m an every-day player. I can still be in the lineup for a Major League team…I will not be on the bench knowing I can play.“If the Angels don’t have position for me, then the best thing is to trade me. It would be the correct (thing) to do. I won’t be able to do nothing sitting on the bench.”"
He may feel like he can be in the lineup for a Major League team, but it isn’t going to be this Major League team. After spending almost two decades as one of the most complete players in baseball, Abreu got pulled from the outfield last season and was primarily used as a designated hitter. Mike Scioscia on Sunday named Kendrys Morales, who appears like he’ll be cleared to play by Opening Day, as the primary DH for this season and that Mike Trumbo, who was displaced from first by Albert Pujols and has been taking some reps at third during the off season, would also get some games at that spot. In addition, the outfield is firmly set with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and Peter Bourjos returning to roam the deep green, which leaves Abreu’s likely role this season as occasional player and pinch hitter.
New general manager Jerry Dipoto, currently going through his first Spring Training as he maneuvers the immovable contracts he inherited such as Vernon Wells ($26 million) and Abreu ($9 million), wants to push back any possible drama until at least the end of the spring.
"“It’s not a foregone conclusion he’s going to be on the bench. Let’s talk about the issue of Bobby as a bench player if, at the end of camp, Bobby’s on the bench.”"
Sounds like wishful thinking or a stall until he can work out a deal to find a new home for the expendable bat of Abreu. The trouble with trading Abreu, though, is the lack of takers for Abreu. By all accounts, the Angels have been shopping the outfielder/DH all off season, including a trade the Angels tried to put through with the Yankees for A.J. Burnett, but had the deal fall apart when Burnett exercised his limited no-trade clause to block the move West. Not many other teams are looking to pay a 37-year old outfielder, who couldn’t play in the outfield and hit just .253 with eight home runs last season $9 million. That leaves the two sides stuck with each other for the foreseeable future.
Manager Mike Scioscia reached out to Abreu a month ago to try and clear the air about what his role would be with the Angels this season.
"“I talked to Bobby, and he told me he wants to play everyday, but he understands the potential in this team to win and understands the situation.”"
Abreu meanwhile, seems to have a different understanding of the situation. While he acknowledges the conversation with Scioscia, he contends that the “conversation had nothing to do about” Abreu becoming a bench player.
"“He told me I will start one day in the left field, another in right, and another as a designated hitter.”"
I guess Scioscia failed to clearly define for Bobby where he would be in between those three starts…
Barring an injury in the lineup or a setback in Morales’ rehabilitation, Abreu looks destined for a spot on the bench. Will he accept his limited role in the lineup or act as a distraction to try and force a trade? Only time will tell, but at least we have all Spring Training to speculate about it.