Phillies sign Abreu to a minor league deal

Posted: January 23, 2014

AFTER receiving little to no interest from any major league teams last winter, two former Phillies outfielders left the country to re-establish their playing careers.

Marlon Byrd revived his bat in Mexico and received a contract with the New York Mets before spring training. After a bounce-back season between New York and Pittsburgh, Byrd signed a 2-year, $16 million contract with the Phillies 2 months ago.

Bobby Abreu's journey was a bit longer, but he is also back in the major leagues - and back with the team where he will one day have a place on its Wall of Fame, too.

The Phillies signed Abreu, who turns 40 in March, to a minor league contract yesterday afternoon with an invitation to big-league camp. According to cbssports.com, which first reported the deal, Abreu will make $800,000 if he makes the major league roster.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke with Abreu 10 days ago and said the former All-Star told him he wanted to finish his career with the Phillies.

"He's very motivated," Amaro said of Abreu, who played this winter in his native Venezuela. "He's in very good shape. Our reports on him say he's been swinging the bat well, moving well. It's a no-risk kind of deal. If he performs, great. If he doesn't, we have no obligation to keep him. But he'll have every opportunity to make the club."

According to ESPN.com, the Mets and Cleveland Indians also had interest in Abreu before he reached an agreement with the Phillies. Abreu would seem to be the favorite for the opening on the major league roster for a lefthanded bat off a righthanded-heavy bench that has Kevin Frandsen, John Mayberry Jr., Darin Ruf and switch-hitter Freddy Galvis in the mix for jobs.

After failing to land a contract last winter, Abreu took a break from baseball before rebooting his career in his Venezuela this past fall. Abreu hit .322 and a .416 OBP in 50 games with Leones del Caracas.

When the Venezuelan league's postseason began, Abreu's bat continued to shine: He hit eight home runs in 15 games. Amaro said the former rightfielder looked "adequate" in the field, too.

"There aren't a lot of lefthanded bats sitting out there, and not a lot of lefthanded bats that have the ability like Bobby, frankly," Amaro said. "And when he started playing, we started watching. And as he continued to play, he got better and better. Clearly, he was dominating in Venezuela. Yeah, it was Venezuela, but it's pretty competitive baseball and he continued to perform in the playoffs there, too."

Abreu earned himself a big-league job in doing so, rejoining the team where he established himself as one of the game's most consistent hitters. Abreu spent nine of his 17 major league seasons with the Phillies, hitting .303 with a .416 OBP and 195 home runs and 254 stolen bases in 1,353 games.

Abreu, who represented the Phillies at the All-Star Game in 2004 and 2005, is in the top 10 in franchise history in several hitting categories, including: doubles (348, fourth), extra-base hits (585, sixth), walks (947, second), on-base percentage (.416, fourth) and home runs (195, 10th).

The Phillies first acquired Abreu in a November 1997 trade with Tampa Bay for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Nine years later, just before the 2006 trade deadline, the Phillies dealt Abreu and pitcher Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees for C.J. Henry, Jesus Sanchez, Carlos Monasterios and Matt Smith.

Of those four players, only Smith appeared in a game for the Phillies, and his major league career was over following the 2007 season. Abreu spent the next 6 1/2 seasons with the Yankees, Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .278 with 89 home runs, 206 doubles and 138 stolen bases in 920 games.

It was easily one of the more lopsided trades in Phillies history, although then-general manager Pat Gillick looked at it more from an addition-by-subtraction move. Abreu had been the longest-tenured player on the team; Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were all coming into their own as All-Star-caliber players and leaders, too.

"The important thing is to change the mix," Gillick said at the time.

A little more than 2 years later, Gillick's Phillies won the World Series. Abreu, meanwhile, went to the postseason with the Astros, Yankees and Angels in his career - hitting .284 with a .392 OBP and one home run in 20 playoff games - but he has never played in a World Series.

The Phillies avoided arbitration with lefthanded reliever Antonio Bastardo, with the two sides coming to an agreement on a 1-year, $2 million deal for 2014.

Bastardo, 28, missed most of the final 2 months of the 2013 season while serving a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, an admittance to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Bastardo was 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 48 games with the Phillies in 2013, his fifth major league season. He was set to earn $1.4 million last year, but that number became prorated with the salary lost while serving the suspension.

Bastardo and the Phillies exchanged arbitration numbers on Friday: The reliever asked for $2.5 million, while the Phillies offered $1.675 million.

Bastardo will likely come into camp competing for a setup role. Before his suspension, Bastardo had 47 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings (fourth among lefthanded NL relievers at the time), while holding opponents to a .217 batting average and .637 OPS.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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