Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Timing is Everything

Now that the Yankees have done the improbable-but-not-impossible and signed Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira, the rest of the Free Agent market is beginning to fall into place.

Last night, for example, Pat Burrell signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, and rumor has Jason Giambi agreeing to a one year deal with the Oakland A's.

Surprisingly, perhaps, depending on your take, one player who still has not been signed is former Yankees' right fielder, Bobby Abreu.

Offensively, Abreu, despite his age, is still a solid player--not one for home run power, but he will hit 100 RBI per year on a consistent basis, and he is, historically, known to work the count--something other Yankees, like Canò and Cabrera have yet to do.

Defensively, however, Abreu is more of a liability than an asset--he takes poor roots to fly balls, and while his arm is still a canon, his accuracy can make you blush.

When you combine the above with his age, his expected salary and the current market for right fielders and DHs, you end up with a situation in which an older player, who still has something to give to the game, is out of a job.

Abreu's current situation might be the most high profile, the most obvious instance of how, in professional sports, timing is everything.

If you're really really good--like, say, if your name is Albert Pujols or Tim Lincecum, then timing is perhaps less important--you are that good, you're going to get your chance anyway.

However, if you're like the majority of professional baseball players, your career depends almost more on timing than anything else.

Everything needs to work out just right to have a chance, and then you have to pray that you're not nursing a bum hamstring or a sore quad if you do happen to get that chance.

Many of us don't think about the timing issue at the major league level. Yet, for every guy that has signed a multi-year, million dollar contract, there is one that got a chance at the major league level, only to have the spot taken away because of an injury or because someone better comes along, or, perhaps, in Bobby's case, because the skills they offer aren't what is needed at the current moment.

Right now, for Abreu, it probably doesn't help that THE GREAT FINANCIAL MELTDOWN OF DOOM is upon us, and teams who aren't the Yankees and don't print their own money may be loath to spend the salary that Abreu could, historically, demand.

Should Abreu have a job?

Definitely--you can't find 100 RBI guys everywhere you look.

Where he would currently fit, however, is another story. The Yankees wouldn't work--you have Xavier Nady in right, one of Brett Gardner/Melky Cabrera in center (uh-oh?) and one of Johnny Damon/Hideki Matsui in left, very possibly with the other DHing.

An argument could be made that there's no knowing about how Matsui's knees will hold out, or how a Gardner/Cabrera tandem will work, but with Austin Jackson (likely) waiting in the wings, it makes no sense for the Yankees to sign Abreu to anything more than a one year or one year plus team option deal, but for someone with Abreu's track record, when one acknowledges the deal that other players have received, it makes no sense for Abreu to want anything less than a multi-year deal, and thus, because of bad timing, Abreu is left in the cold.

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