Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Abreu and free agency

According to Buster Olney, Bobby Abreu (and perhaps other free agents such as Adam Dunn) may now be willing to take a one-year deal. I'm a little torn on what this might mean for the Reds. Obviously, Abreu would be a better outfielder than Chris Dickerson. With Castellini's win now approach it seems like a no-brainer. Go for Abreu and start selling season tickets again. But for Abreu to take a one-year deal, he would have to approach it from a "have a great season in '09 and hope that the market turns around next year" approach. This would be cheap for the Reds, but do they really want to pay about $8 mil. for one year of Abreu? Especially if that year is '09, the "year before" the Reds are ready to win. To me a much better approach for the Reds would be a one-year deal plus a club option for '10, if they can get Abreu to take that. But I don't see him taking the one year with an option. That defeats his purpose. What's more likely now is a two-year deal. If you're a club looking for a bargain, why not make it a two-year bargain? If Abreu won't do a year and an option, the Reds should go ahead and offer him two years. They can make a run at .500 this year and a run at the division in '10. (Harang and Arroyo can't pitch for ever, and if the Reds don't try and win in '09, they should trade both of those guys.) Look what the Rays did with Burrell; they got him for two years and at a great price. The Burrell deal is exactly what the Reds should have been doing.

And that leads me to my bigger point. I don't think it's the economy that is killing the free-agent market. I think it's the Rays and (lack of) steroids. The Rays proved last year that the way to win, and win cheaply, is to draft really good players, develop them, sign them through their arbitration years, and then let them go. Why pay a 36-year-old who finally made it to free agency a 4-year, multi-multi-million dollar deal? All you're paying for is the player's rapid decline. Instead, do the same, but much more cheaply, with a 26-year-old. By the time players reach their free agent years, especially in this age of non-steroids, they're declining rapidly in their skills. 32 is the new 38. If I'm right about this, then the market will not improve next year for the "older guys" like Abreu and they should get whatever they can this year in terms of number of years and money. Free agency, especially for hitters, has become a dinosaur. By the time you get there, you're not worth it.

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