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So the Angels are expected to sign Bobby Abreu to a one-year, $5 million deal today.

I know you’re thinking it. Get it out of your system. It’s ok.

OMG! JIM HENDRY IS A FREAKING IDIOT!!! TWICE AS MUCH AND MUCH LONGER FOR MILTON BRADLEY!?!?!? ROOOOAAAARRR!!!!!!!!

Better? Ok. Now let’s calmly and rationally discuss what the Abreu deal really means, after the jump.

First of all, there’s no guarantee that Bobby Abreu ever would have signed with the Cubs in the first place. So let’s just get that out there right off the bat.

Second, nobody could have predicted that a.) Abreu would remain unsigned long into February, b.) the free agent market would tank so precipitously that quality players can’t even get major league deals let alone multi-year deals, and c.) Bradley’s deal would be the largest given to an outfielder not named Manny.

The thing is, Milton Bradley was ALWAYS going to get a bigger contract than Abreu. If Abreu had signed a couple months ago, the gap may not have been as wide, but it was going to be there. And we can’t even evaluate the obverse, because Milton Bradley was NOT going to remain unsigned until now.

Do I think, in retrospect, the Cubs overpaid for Bradley? Yes. But much like with the (horrific) Alfonso Soriano deal, the Cubs overpaid because it was necessary at the time to make the deal happen.

So now that the reality is dispensed with, the theoretical question is: if the Cubs could have passed on Bradley, and subsequently signed Abreu to a 1-year, $5 million deal, would that have been a better move?

No one can question that when healthy, and given their ages, Bradley is the better player. Abreu has become a poor, to quite poor defender (which no doubt played a role in his relative inability to find work). Bradley, on the other hand, when he plays, is roundly considered a quality defender.

But that “when healthy” caveat is a big, fat one. Abreu always is. Bradley always isn’t.

And the reasons that the Cubs were so keen on Bradley – lefty, high OBP, athletic – are present in Abreu’s repertoire as well. Yes, Abreu’s power seems to have abandoned him; but Milton Bradley is not a slugger.

The contract is obviously a factor (otherwise we wouldn’t even be having this discussion). Abreu’s deal offers the Angels flexibility (ironically, it bumped Gary Matthews, Jr. to the bench – a guy who makes twice what Abreu will be making). Bradley’s deal, on the other hand, restricted the Cubs’ flexibility so much that it arguably necessitated the Cubs’ shedding of Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood.

So, yes, in theoreticaland, the Cubs probably would have been better off with Abreu for one year and $5 mill than Bradley for multiple years at $10 mill.

But that doesn’t mean that anything general manager Jim Hendry did with regards to the Milton Bradley deal was wrong. It was the right deal at that point in time. If we start theoreticalizin’ about Abreu, why can’t we theoreticalize (making up words is fun) about the market? What if the market (and economy) recovered, and by February, guys like Abreu were pulling in the 3-year, $40+ mill kinds of deals they were a few years ago?

Something else to keep in mind: Adam Dunn just signed a 2 year, $20 million deal with the Washington Nationals. Technically, that’s the same as Bradley’s deal with the Cubs.

So maybe the Abreu deal says a whole lot more about Bobby Abreu than it says about anyone else.

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