Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mike Cameron Is No Star, But He's The Red Sox Bridge to 2012

Red Sox fans are just getting used to the idea of Mike Cameron patrolling left field for the Red Sox next season. And for many, it's not a particularly sexy idea.

After all, Cameron is 37 and has a lifetime .250 average. Among active players, only Jim Thome (2,313) has struck out more times than Cameron (1,798).

It's tough to get excited about that.

However, Cameron is a three time Gold Glover who can still go get the ball. Left field in Fenway should be a piece of cake for this guy, even if he's lost a step–and I've heard no indications that he has.

Additionally, JD Drew has averaged just 121 games a year over the last eleven seasons, and has never played in more than 146 in any of them. As customary, he will miss time for various reasons, and Cameron's ability to play terrific defense in all three outfield positions gives Terry Francona great flexibility.

The reason the Red Sox ended up with the 37-year-old Cameron is that there was a really limited market for corner outfielders after Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, both of whom are grossly overpriced.

Initially, I was hoping the Sox might sign Marlon Byrd or Xavier Nady, who was a rising star until he hurt his shoulder and had surgery last season. Perhaps that shoulder hasn't fully healed. You have to wonder if the Sox ever asked for his medical records?

And if the Red Sox are forced to part with Jacoby Ellsbury in an Adrian Gonzalez trade, then we may see Nady's name resurface, with Cameron going back to his natural position in center field.

The good news is that the Sox were able to get Cameron on a two year deal, at nearly $8 million per season. That may seem a bit pricey to some, but it's a short term arrangement that gets the Sox to their minor league kids, like Redick, Kalish and Westmoreland.

Cameron is the "bridge" that the Sox were talking about this offseason. And if they want to make a bid for someone like Carl Crawford next year, it will be easy to unload Cameron at that price.

It's worth noting that, with Cameron signing for just two years, the Red Sox will now have two outfield spots (left and right) opening up after the 2011 season.

I like that Cameron is said to be a a high character guy and a great clubhouse presence. Apparently, everyone loves him because he's a funny guy and a unifying figure. For whatever it's worth, he should keep things light and relaxed in the Sox clubhouse.

While Cameron's batting average worries me a bit, he has a career .340 OBP, which softens that a little. And he hit at least 20 homers eight times in his career. Over the last 11 years he's averaged 22 HR per season. And it can't be forgotten that he's played his career in expansive pitcher's parks in San Diego, Seattle and New York. He should fare well in the smaller confines of Fenway Park.

The combination of Cameron and Jeremy Hermida should be able to make up for Bay's lost offense.

On a side note, I think everyone is really curious to watch Hermida play, and find out if he can live up to the potential that once had him ranked so highly throughout baseball.

In the end, Cameron will also improve the Red Sox run prevention next year. As a whole, team defense should improve across the board, depending on who's at third / first.

So while Cameron isn't a star attraction, or a big name like Holliday or Bay, he should make a positive impact on the Red Sox in a variety of ways. And the Red Sox were able to acquire him short term, at a cost they can easily afford.

By the way, FanGraphs has this interesting bit here which says that Cameron is actually a better all around player than Bay.

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