As expected, the Yankees have picked up Bobby Abreu's $16 million option for the 2008 season. It was really a rather obvious move to make. Having lost their cleanup hitter, the Yankees could ill-afford to lose their number-three hitter as well and though Abreu had his worst full season last year, which continued a downward trend in his production as he eases into his mid-30s (Abreu will turn 34 during spring training), that was largely the result of a slow start, as Abreu hit just .228/.313/.289 in April and May, but then flipped the switch and hit .309/.396/.520 over the final four months, which was right in line with his career numbers of .300/.408/.500.
Given this year's weak free-agent class, no team could afford to part with so productive a hitter. The best available alternative would have been Andruw Jones, but Jones is a career .263/.342/.497 hitter coming off his own worst full season (a dismal .222/.311/.413), has a bad reputation as far as conditioning and team chemistry go, and is only three years younger than Abreu to begin with. Sure, Jones is a Gold Glove center fielder rather than a wall-shy right fielder, but Jones' defense has slipped in the last few seasons. Most importantly, there was no guarantee that the Yankees would have been able to sign him, and, as he is the best hitter on the market (save for hot potato Barry Bonds and the banished Alex Rodriguez), they would likely have overpayed if they did. Instead they have Abreu, whose better than Jones at the plate and an established and popular member of the team both in the clubhouse and in the stands, for one year at $16 million. Not bad at all.
I'll be back in a bit with a look at how Abreu's return could impact the rest of the 2008 Yankee lineup.