Jump to content
Brewer Fanatic
  • Potential First Base Free Agent Targets: Jose Abreu and Josh Bell


    DuWayne Steurer

    As the Brewers head into their first off-season under new President of Baseball Operations Matt Arnold, we'll be taking a look at some of the ways the team may look to improve on the 86-76 record that saw them fall just short of a playoff spot in 2022. In this article, we'll look at two of the possible first base targets Arnold may look at (and one that was rumored to be a trade target at the deadline last year in Josh Bell) who could add some punch to the Brewers lineup. 

    Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports (Bell photo) and Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports (Abreu photo)

    Brewers Video

     

    By all accounts, the Brewers regular first baseman and fan favorite, Rowdy Tellez had a fine 2022 season. He bashed 35 home runs, 23 doubles, and knocked in 89 run. While he only hit .219 for the year, he drew a respectable 62 walks and for a power-hitting slugger, struck out at a reasonable rate, with just 121 whiffs in 599 plate appearances. With a .767 OPS and a 115 OPS+, first base, at first blush, wasn't the main problem for the Brewers offense.

    Taking a deeper dive into Tellez's numbers though, he posted a -1.3 brDWar, and Fangraphs didn't like his defense much either, slotting him at -12.9 runs with the glove. His BABiP was surprisingly low, at .215, which was well below his career norms, and well below any number in his career prior, so that number should be expected to rebound in the coming season. But with a player like Rowdy Tellez, should Matt Arnold stand pat or look to improve?

    Taking a look at free agency, the two players who are available and may fit the Brewers budget are Josh Bell and former American League MVP, Jose Abreu. It's worth noting that acquiring either of these players doesn't preclude the Brewers from bringing back Tellez, with the addition of the DH to the National League. The Brewers have the luxury now (finally) of carrying a bat-only player on the roster.

    Taking a look at Jose Abreu, the obvious drawback is his age. Abreu will be 36 on Opening Day 2023. Abreu hit .304 in 2022, though his power took a dip, down from 30 home runs in 2021 to just 15 in 2022. Whether that's age-related, or just an odd fluctuation, it's hard to say. His launch angle at 8.0 degrees was the lowest of his career, but not by a large amount. His barrel percentage, hard hit, and exit velocity are still all in line or close to career averages. Despite his age, he's not showing much, if any, age-related decline. 

    Season Team Level Events EV maxEV LA Barrels Barrel% HardHit HardHit% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
    2015 CHW MLB 474 91.0 114.9 9.7 42 8.9% 197 41.6% .290 .270 .502 .456 .361 .338
    2016 CHW MLB 508 89.7 113.4 10.3 36 7.1% 199 39.2% .293 .280 .468 .467 .349 .348
    2017 CHW MLB 506 90.6 114.9 11.1 43 8.5% 231 45.7% .304 .290 .552 .520 .377 .364
    2018 CHW MLB 396 91.3 115.5 12.2 35 8.8% 179 45.2% .265 .277 .473 .493 .337 .356
    2019 CHW MLB 492 92.1 117.9 10.9 59 12.0% 237 48.2% .284 .279 .503 .517 .344 .358
    2020 CHW MLB 182 92.9 114.0 10.9 26 14.3% 97 53.3% .317 .299 .617 .587 .411 .399
    2021 CHW MLB 433 92.0 115.6 10.4 44 10.2% 212 49.0% .261 .252 .481 .457 .354 .349
    2022 CHW MLB 495 92.2 113.0 8.0 47 9.5% 256 51.7% .304 .296 .446 .486 .361 .373
    Total - - - MLB 3486 91.3 117.9 10.4 332 9.5% 1608 46.1% .292   .506   .364  
     

    He did sock forty doubles and put up a more-than-solid .304/.378/.446 (.824) slash line, with a 133 OPS+. Any team investing two or three years in him is probably expecting to get a little more pop out of their first base position, of course, but there's a bit of a gamble that his power dip was a one-year anomaly. The .446 slugging percentage was the lowest of his career, and while at his age expecting Abreu to put up the numbers he did in his late 20's is unrealistic, the Brewers (or any team to sign him) would probably be banking on getting 20+ home run power for a few more seasons.

    Abreu's defense wasn't fantastic, and never really has been. He was -0.9 brDwar and was rated at -11.9 runs defensively at Fangraphs. Despite his poor defense, Abreu put up a 4.2 bWAR and a 3.9 WAR, per Fangraphs. Again, given age-related decline, we should expect that number to dip a little bit over the next few years, but that's still a sizeable improvement over the 0.9 WAR Tellez supplied this past season. 

    The other target the Brewers may look at for first base, Josh Bell, was previously discussed at the trade deadline as a possible upgrade for the position. While the Brewers didn't acquire him, the Crew may take another look at Bell now in free agency. Bell's season was definitely a tale of two halves. In Washington, he hit a very nice .301 with 14 home runs with an .877 OPS. With Washington well out of the playoff race early, Bell's name was attached to just about every contender looking for some extra offense, including the Brewers.

    In the end, Bell went to the Padres, where he struggled immensely for the rest of the season, hitting a paltry .192 with just three home runs over 210 plate appearances. While it's hard to ignore the struggles he had down the stretch, Bell is just entering his age-30 season, and has a solid track record of success at the plate over seven major-league seasons. Like Abreu, Bell's power numbers were down last season, with 17 home runs between Washington and San Diego.

    Season Team Level GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB IFH% BUH% Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
    2016 PIT MLB 1.75 21.4% 50.0% 28.6% 9.4% 9.4% 7.1% 0.0% 22.3% 34.8% 42.9% 22.3% 44.6% 33.0%
    2017 PIT MLB 1.64 17.7% 51.1% 31.2% 11.8% 19.1% 6.3% 0.0% 41.5% 29.6% 28.9% 20.6% 46.8% 32.6%
    2018 PIT MLB 1.49 19.0% 48.5% 32.5% 9.2% 9.2% 8.2% 0.0% 33.8% 37.6% 28.6% 19.2% 47.0% 33.8%
    2019 PIT MLB 1.18 18.8% 44.0% 37.3% 6.5% 23.9% 3.3% 0.0% 42.5% 33.2% 24.3% 13.2% 41.3% 45.4%
    2020 PIT MLB 2.17 18.6% 55.7% 25.7% 8.3% 22.2% 3.8% 0.0% 38.6% 37.1% 24.3% 10.7% 47.9% 41.4%
    2021 WSN MLB 2.02 20.0% 53.5% 26.5% 5.7% 25.5% 3.3% 0.0% 39.0% 35.8% 25.3% 12.0% 50.5% 37.5%
    2022 2 Tms MLB 1.63 18.6% 50.4% 30.9% 9.9% 12.1% 3.5% 0.0% 38.4% 36.0% 25.7% 17.1% 53.3% 29.6%
    Total - - - MLB 1.60 18.9% 49.9% 31.2% 8.7% 17.7% 4.9% 0.0% 38.3% 34.5% 27.2% 16.4% 47.7% 35.9%
     
     

    Bell's HR/FB ratio dropped by more than half, playing in Washington and San Diego. While Pittsburgh isn't exactly known as a hitting haven, Bell's numbers took a big hit playing in two pitcher-friendly environments in 2022. Should the Brewers pursue Bell, Miller Park with its short right-field porch should prove to be a friendlier hitting environment for the big switch-hitter.

    Despite his struggles in San Diego, Bell secured a respectable 3.0 bWAR for the season, with a 124 OPS+. Like Tellez and Abreu, Bell's strength is with the stick, and not with the glove. Between both stops, Bell scored a -1.0 brDWar for the season and has historically been subpar at best in the field. 

    The question around Bell and Abreu, of course, will be contract length and value. Bell is younger and will command a longer commitment, and possibly more dollars per year. At 30, his future may be slightly more projectible, and he hits from both sides of the plate. Abreu put up slightly better numbers for the season, and will almost certainly require fewer years of commitment, given his age. Either one may be a solid fit and allow the Brewers to tandem with Tellez at first base and designated hitter for the next couple of years. 

    What do you think Brewer fanatics? Is either of these slugging first basemen a good fit for the Brewers? Which one would you target? Or is there someone else out there that is a better fit? Let us know in the comments!

     

    Think you could write a story like this? Brewer Fanatic wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    MORE FROM BREWER FANATIC
    — Latest Brewers coverage from our writers
    — Recent Brewers discussion in our forums
    — Follow Brewer Fanatic via Twitter, Facebook or email

     Share


    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    Featured Comments

    Morosi is reporting that the Padres are making Abreu their top priority as a free agent signing this off season, and have already contacted him.

    Once the teams with the big boy funds start to inquire about the guys that we might want, odds are, we aren't going to get them without overpaying.

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    On 11/18/2022 at 9:02 AM, Lajitas said:

    "Most teams #3"  Yeah, non-contending teams.  And in 2002, Lauer would have been the Brewers ace.  Ace on a team that loses over 100 games.

    Any team that looks at Lauer as their #3 isn't a team looking to make the playoffs.

     

    You're both correct.

    In 2022, among pitchers with at least 90 IP, Lauer ranked #119 in FIP, a low #4.

    In 2021, among pitchers with at least 90 IP, Lauer ranked #65, a high #3.

    Between 2021 and 2022 combined, among pitchers with at least 180 IP Lauer ranked #92, a high #4.

     

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    43 minutes ago, LouisEly said:

    You're both correct.

    In 2022, among pitchers with at least 90 IP, Lauer ranked #119 in FIP, a low #4.

    In 2021, among pitchers with at least 90 IP, Lauer ranked #65, a high #3.

    Between 2021 and 2022 combined, among pitchers with at least 180 IP Lauer ranked #92, a high #4.

     

    Woah. Just relying on FIP to assess Lauer's performance over the past two years is dangerous. FIP should ideally be used in concert with other measures, such as ERA+/-, etc.

    So, by ERA-, for example, Lauer finished:

    30th among pitchers with at least 90 IP in 2021, a high #2.

    61st among pitchers with at least 90 IP in 2022, a high #3.

    By actual production over the past two years, Lauer is ranked 39th, just behind Gerrit Cole and Chris Bassett, and good enough for a #2 starter. So, split the difference with FIP and Lauer has indeed been an elite #4 starter for us and would be a solid #3/#2 on a lot of teams. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Problem with baseball stats, you can usually find the stats to back up your point, but then again, so can the guy on the other side of the argument.

    So many stats to use, so many outcomes.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    On 11/15/2022 at 5:02 PM, LouisEly said:

    Chris Carter's career K rate: 33.3%

    Rowdy Tellez's career K rate: 22.4% (and 20.2% last year, 18.4% in 2021). 

    Not sure what your definition of "mainstay" is, but Tellez is "good enough" at his current salary (that may change with arbitration).  If Abreu costs $20M/year and Tellez comes in at his rough arbitration estimate of $5M... Abreu isn't worth $15M more.

    And Tellez isn't like Chris Carter at all.

    Your money argument is nonsensical.  You could take any mediocre player and compare him with a good player at that position and convince yourself that the incremental benefit isn’t worth it, one by one.  And then you win 75 games.  

    Rowdy, like Carter, is all homers and not much else.  Even with his power he was a sub .800 OPS guy and couldn’t even knock in 90 runs from run producing spots in the order.   He’s a subpar defender and could not even manage to hit .220.  Comparing his strikeouts with Carter’s is way out on the margins.   

    The Brewers need a force in the middle of the lineup, especially from the right side.  Abreu solves all that Rowdy lacks.   That’s worth the money difference.  It’s precisely why Abreu gets paid.   It’s precisely why other teams will be all over him.  He may get priced outside of Milwaukee but it’s because he’s worth it.  

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    10 hours ago, Austin Tatious said:

    Your money argument is nonsensical.  You could take any mediocre player and compare him with a good player at that position and convince yourself that the incremental benefit isn’t worth it, one by one.  And then you win 75 games.  

    Rowdy, like Carter, is all homers and not much else.  Even with his power he was a sub .800 OPS guy and couldn’t even knock in 90 runs from run producing spots in the order.   He’s a subpar defender and could not even manage to hit .220.  Comparing his strikeouts with Carter’s is way out on the margins.   

    The Brewers need a force in the middle of the lineup, especially from the right side.  Abreu solves all that Rowdy lacks.   That’s worth the money difference.  It’s precisely why Abreu gets paid.   It’s precisely why other teams will be all over him.  He may get priced outside of Milwaukee but it’s because he’s worth it.  

    Depends on what the team does with Wong, Renfroe & Burnes. The payroll is already at $123M, so adding ~$20M with no trades of the aforementioned isn’t going to work.

    The team would probably need to trade at least 2 of them if not all 3 to free up the payroll space to add Abreu, plus a possible catcher, reliever, and starter depth.

    Maybe some of that can come back to us from the trades, but payroll will need to be shed if we want to add a $20M type player. 

    • Like 1
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    12 hours ago, Austin Tatious said:

    Your money argument is nonsensical.  You could take any mediocre player and compare him with a good player at that position and convince yourself that the incremental benefit isn’t worth it, one by one.  And then you win 75 games.  

    Rowdy, like Carter, is all homers and not much else.  Even with his power he was a sub .800 OPS guy and couldn’t even knock in 90 runs from run producing spots in the order.   He’s a subpar defender and could not even manage to hit .220.  Comparing his strikeouts with Carter’s is way out on the margins.   

    The Brewers need a force in the middle of the lineup, especially from the right side.  Abreu solves all that Rowdy lacks.   That’s worth the money difference.  It’s precisely why Abreu gets paid.   It’s precisely why other teams will be all over him.  He may get priced outside of Milwaukee but it’s because he’s worth it.  

    So we're using batting average and RBIs to assess a player's value?  And you say my point is "nonsensical"?

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    On 11/19/2022 at 8:26 PM, Hopper said:

    Morosi is reporting that the Padres are making Abreu their top priority as a free agent signing this off season, and have already contacted him.

    Once the teams with the big boy funds start to inquire about the guys that we might want, odds are, we aren't going to get them without overpaying.

    Agreed, we mine as well forget about adding Abreu, we'll need to massive overpay.

    Go get Luke Voit instead.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Some of you are acting like Abreu is a "force?"  Yes he has a hit tool that Rowdy doesn't have, but 15 homers in 2022 is far from a "force."

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    29 minutes ago, Hopper said:

    Some of you are acting like Abreu is a "force?"  Yes he has a hit tool that Rowdy doesn't have, but 15 homers in 2022 is far from a "force."

    A players HR total is certainly one part of the equation.

    But why leave out batting average (Abreu ranked 8th) and on base percentage (Abreu ranked 9th)?

    Add it all up, adjust for home ballpark & league wide offensive environment, and Jose’s 137 wRC+ last year ranked 21st.

    Does that make him a “force”? I dunno, that’s an arbitrary determination. It would have made him the best hitter on the Brewers by a notable margin though with his 28.6 batting runs almost doubling the Brewers top batter Hunter Renfroe at 14.4.

    • Like 6
    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    1 hour ago, sveumrules said:

    A players HR total is certainly one part of the equation.

    But why leave out batting average (Abreu ranked 8th) and on base percentage (Abreu ranked 9th)?

    Add it all up, adjust for home ballpark & league wide offensive environment, and Jose’s 137 wRC+ last year ranked 21st.

    Does that make him a “force”? I dunno, that’s an arbitrary determination. It would have made him the best hitter on the Brewers by a notable margin though with his 28.6 batting runs almost doubling the Brewers top batter Hunter Renfroe at 14.4.

    Abreu would be fine if you are looking for a #3 hitter but traditionally when someone says run producer they usually mean the #4 spot in the lineup.  I think you lose value with Abreu as the #4 hitter and he is better as the #3 hitter in the lineup.

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    On 11/21/2022 at 8:44 AM, Hopper said:

    Some of you are acting like Abreu is a "force?"  Yes he has a hit tool that Rowdy doesn't have, but 15 homers in 2022 is far from a "force."

    He had 40 doubles and an OPS over .800 and has had power in the past.  He’s an accomplished hitter.  IMO

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    On 11/21/2022 at 8:26 AM, LouisEly said:

    So we're using batting average and RBIs to assess a player's value?  And you say my point is "nonsensical"?

    100%. 

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites




    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Guest
    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...