Bobby Abreu, designated for assignment by the Dodgers after the trade deadline, agreed today to join the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. He probably doesn't mind all that much, because he'll still make the $9 million the Angels guaranteed him back in 2009. Maybe he'd feel embarrassed being released for the second time in a season. Those same Angels dumped him back in April, and they've gone on to lead the AL in team OPS+. The guy who took Abreu's roster spot, Mike Trout, had a bit of a hand in that. So Abreu will do his thing in Albuquerque and wait for a call-up.
What's funny about Abreu is that, even at his vastly diminished 38, he has one superlative skill. He had a .359 on-base percentage in 209 plate appearances with the Dodgers. If he had enough at-bats to qualify for the leaderboard, he'd be 16th in the NL. Last year he had a .353 on-base, the year before that .352, the year before that .390. Sure, everything else—the speed, the power, the arm—has vanished. But he could still be a fine leadoff hitter for a quirky team.
I tried poking around to see if the gap between Abreu's minor-league games is one of history's biggest. Abreu should play tomorrow night against the Reno Aces, and that will be his first minor-league game since August 1997. 15 years is quite a long time. Since the Elias Sports Bureau doesn't keep minors stats, we can't tell exactly how that gap compares to others in baseball history. But we know it's not the longest. Remember Jason Kendall's ill-fated comeback attempt last month? Kendall went 17 years between minor-league games. He beats Abreu. And Julio Franco, that one-man chronological-oddity factory, went a little longer than both of them. Franco played 120 games for the Oklahoma City 89ers in 1982. Then he came back to the minors for the single-A Rome Braves in 2007. That's 25 years. Mike Trout's lifespan, and then some. Our hunch is that he's got the record.