In what could be an annual tradition for DRaysBay, the time has come to publically campaign for Winston Abreu. In 2009, the Free Abreu campaign was started after the right-hander dominated the International League to the tune of a 1.94 ERA/2.14 FIP. In 51 innings at Triple-A, he struck out 77 batters (13.59 K/9).
In mid-June of '09, Abreu was briefly called up by the Rays. He made just two appearances before he was designated for assignment. He was subsequently traded to the Cleveland Indians soon after. He would make three appearances for the Indians before being DFA for a second time.
Instead of accepting Cleveland's assigment, he opted for free agency and re-signed with the Rays as a minor league free agent. After the season, Abreu had surgery for an aneurysm, but was back with the organization in time for Spring Training. Since then he has been pitching for the Durham Bulls - once again dominating the IL.
In 35.1 innings so far, Abreu has struck out 52 batters. For the second straight season, his K/9 tops 13.0. His ERA is down to 1.53, and his FIP of 1.84 isn't far behind. He is handling lefties as well as righties (identical 1.84 FIPs), and has allowed just one home run. It has been the home run that has plagued Abreu at the major league level - allowing 10 home runs in 44.1 career innings.
Recently, both Abreu and R.J. Swindle had opt-out clauses in their contracts in which they could have declared for free agency. Luckily for the sake of organizational depth, they decided to stay. While Swindle's fate is most likely tied to the left arm of Randy Choate, Abreu is not a specialist.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned calling up Jeremy Hellickson for the sake of putting the best pitching staff on the 25-man roster. I wrote that half out of desperation, as well as knowing it was easier said than done. Hellickson is still developing and is a starting pitcher. We have no such caveats with Abreu. The only thing we have to lose with Abreu is time. He is 33 years-old and more than likely will not be improving in the coming years.
While gaudy Triple-A stats are nice to pad your minor league resume, they don't always translate into major league success. On the other hand, we don't need Abreu to be a sub-2 FIP reliever for the Rays. To make the call-up worth while, he just needs to be better than the last man in the bullpen - Lance Cormier.
I am a fan of Cormier (maybe the biggest outside of his family), but I understand bullpens. Cormier was good last year. His 3.26 ERA/4.18 FIP and 0.5 WAR over 77.1 innings were a welcomed addition for near the league minimum.
Meanwhile, things have not worked out as well this year. Never one to strike out many, Cormier has just 14 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. The lack of K's looks even worse when you see the 21 free passes he has given up. If Abreu can be completely league average and post an FIP around 4.20, then the move upgrades the team - which is the goal.