First Marlon Byrd and now Bobby Abreu. Who’s next, Brett Myers?
The Philadelphia Phillies continue to bring back old names from the team’s past, and a lot of fans cannot help but question why. Some might say that the Phillies are starting to follow in the Flyers’ footsteps of living in the past and constantly bringing back old players. After all, why else would you bring back a 39-year-old outfielder who was out of the MLB last season? While there is no guarantee that Abreu will even be on the team as he signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, Ruben Amaro is even more on the hot seat in the eyes of the fans after this latest move.
While Abreu is simply being offered an opportunity to make the team, Byrd is expected to start in right field. Bringing Byrd back to Philadelphia deserves to be questioned. You have to wonder why Amaro would bring in a 36-year-old who was almost out of baseball following a suspension in 2012. He is obviously counting on Byrd coming close to duplicating his 2013 season. It is possible that Byrd could continue to have success, but the issue is that the Phillies are relying on that to happen. If he cannot duplicate last season’s success then the Phillies are left trying to find a suitable starting right fielder, as they did last season.
There is a reason for bringing in Abreu: he fills a need at a cheap price. While the Phillies have a very left-heavy starting lineup, they lack left-handed options off of the bench. If Abreu makes the team, then that changes. One of the reasons the Phillies signed Jim Thome before the 2012 season was because he would provide a left-handed power bat off of the bench. Thome’s career as a pinch hitter was not good, with a .217 average as a pinch hitter. Meanwhile, Abreu had most of his pinch hit appearances in 2012 with the Dodgers, where he had a .257 average. While his numbers don’t look great, the worst case scenario is Abreu making the team and having a role similar to the one Matt Stairs played during his time with the team; go out and try to hit a home run.
The reason to not dismiss Byrd doesn’t have to do with last season’s career year, but rather a look at his career as a whole. Byrd has a .280 career batting average, which was better than all but three Phillies position players last season. If he can hit for his career average then the team will have already improved in right field, as their top right fielder last year, Delmon Young, hit .261.
Another area where Byrd is an improvement over Young is defense. Byrd began his career as a centerfielder and at this point in his career provides at least average defense, whereas it was always an adventure last year when the ball was hit Young’s way. Not to be overlooked is Byrd filling the role as a right-handed power bat in the Phillies left heavy lineup.
The returns of Abreu and Young are not the flashy moves fans are used to seeing from Amaro, but both fills needs without paying too much. Returning to hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park should help both players, but the important thing to keep in mind is that neither player is expected to carry the team.