Looking to fortify their bench with a left-handed bat, the Phillies have gone back to the future and signed veteran Bobby Abreu to a minor-league contract.
Abreu, who turns 40 in March, will get a chance to win a job with the big club in spring training.
Abreu spent nine of his 17 major-league seasons with the Phillies before sitting out last season. He resumed his career this winter in the Venezuelan league and the Phillies liked enough of what they saw to bring him to Clearwater for a spring look-see.
"The purpose of this signing is to see if he has anything left," GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We have seen him in the Venezuelan league, he is swinging the bat well. He's in shape and he's clearly motivated to play.
"If he performs and makes the team, great. If he doesn't perform we have no obligation. But he'll get every opportunity to make the club."
Abreu hit .322 with three homers, 28 RBIs and a .877 OPS in 50 games in the Venezuelan league. He followed that by hitting .464 with eight homers and five doubles in 15 postseason games.
Abreu will likely get a lot of playing time in spring training. He’ll make $800,000 if he makes the club.
Abreu is an outfielder by trade and his signing could impact several other Phillies. If Abreu makes the team, he could squeeze out Darin Ruf or John Mayberry Jr., both right-handed hitters. Ruf has minor-league options remaining. Mayberry is on a guaranteed contract worth just over $1.5 million.
Abreu starred for the Phillies from 1998 to 2006. He put up stellar offensive numbers – a .303 batting average, 195 home runs and a .928 OPS in 1,353 games with the Phils.
Abreu received interest from several other teams, but chose the Phillies, according to Amaro, because, "He loved his time in Philly and wanted to finish his career as a Phillie."
Former Phillies GM Pat Gillick traded Abreu to the Yankees in July 2006. Gillick later said trading Abreu helped change the culture of the Phillies and allowed players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to step into leadership roles.
The Phillies broke a 14-year playoff drought by winning the NL East in 2007. They won the World Series in 2008.
Abreu has eight 100-RBI seasons on his ledger, but his production dropped precipitously with the Angels and Dodgers in 2011 and 2012, leading to his hiatus in 2013.
The Phils had previous interest in left-handed-hitting Lyle Overbay, but he went off the board when he signed a minor-league deal with Milwaukee on Monday.