Red-hot Abreu making 29 teams look foolish

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The faltering economy didn’t take much of a toll on CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett last winter, thanks to the Yankees’ lavish buyout plan, but those unwanted by the Bombers had to scramble to find refuge and many remained unemployed until February. Take Bobby Abreu, for instance. Too many quality GMs believed they were already set at the outfield corners and too many lousy ones weren’t bright enough to see that he was still a fine player. After talking with the A’s and White Sox, Abreu ended up accepting $5 million from the Angels just days before camp opened. It was an $11 million paycut.
Of course, Abreu has proven to be a bargain, even if he didn’t hit his first homer until May 26. He’s currently batting .322/.417/.455 with 22 steals in 27 attempts. He ranks sixth in the AL in average, third in OBP, tied for fifth in steals and 11th in runs created. He was just named the AL’s player of the month for July, mainly because he led the circuit with 28 RBI. His defense, much maligned during his final season in New York, has graded out as practically average this year.
Abreu is on pace to play in 150 games and post an 800 OPS for the 12th straight seasons. With one more homer, he’ll join Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan and Willie Mays as the only players with 250 homers, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBI, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases.
Unlike those five guys, Abreu hasn’t quite performed at a Hall of Fame level. He’s never led the league in average, OBP, slugging, homers, runs, RBI or steals. His only “black ink” comes from when he led the NL in doubles in 2002 and tied for the lead in Triple-A in 1999. He actually led the majors in walks in 2006, but that was the year he was traded from the Phillies to the Yankees at midseason. His highest ever finish in the MVP balloting was 14th place in 2005, which actually was pretty far down the list of his best seasons. He’s appeared in just two All-Star Games.
Abreu deserves much better treatment than he’s deserved through the years. He’s not one of the game’s greats, but he’s been awfully effective for a long time. Worse players have been enshrined in Cooperstown. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he’s treated when he’s a free agent again this winter. Abreu will turn 36 next spring, and he’s not known for his conditioning. Still, the remarkable durability should make him a candidate for one more multiyear deal, likely at significantly more than the $5 million he’s earning this season.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.