Posted by Steve
With the signing of Mike Cameron, the 2008 team is pretty much set. This acquisition is an interesting one, and one that definitely does not appear to have been Melvin’s first choice. He inquired about Scott Rolen, David DeJesus, Andre Ethier and Hank Blalock for sure, and presumably several more left-handed hitters, but apparently just couldn’t find a good deal.That left him with Mike Cameron, who is not really ideal, but is certainly better than some of the names recently linked to the Brewers, such as Luis Gonzalez, Pedro Feliz and Shawn Green.
While Cameron’s presence will improve the team, the signing is definitely not without flaws. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons, with cons first. Always ask for the bad news first, right?
- He’s right-handed, leaving Prince Fielder as the only left-handed hitting starter.
- He’s no spring chicken at 35.
- He doesn’t play third. I preferred a slick-fielding third baseman so the Brewers could let Hall stay in center, a position where he improved significantly in the second half of 2007. Hall has been competent at third, but won’t be near the top defensively.
- We’ve been hearing how the Brewers would like to improve team OBP, but Cameron’s last season was an underwhelming .328.
- He’ll miss the first 25 games for the illegal supplement suspension.
- He strikes out a lot. Not that strikeouts really matter, but they can be frustrating to watch, so I threw that on here.
- If Cameron has another face-breaking collision, it will likely be with either Corey Hart or Ryan Braun.
- This was a very low-risk deal. A one-year deal with a club option for a second is very nice. Not to mention this is a cheap signing. Only about $6.2 mil is guaranteed, which is about 3-4 mil less than what I’d have guessed. As a quick aside, I’m enjoying Doug’s new hobby of collecting short-term contracts. Kendall, Mota, Torres, Gagne and Cameron are all newcomers signed for two years or less. Nobody is going to keep a team handcuffed with short deals like those.
- All it cost the Brewers was money–Rolen, Blalock, Ethier, Teahen, DeJesus, etc. would have all required good players in a trade.
- Clearly the most important part of this signing and the motivation behind it: This will improve team defense by A TON. Cameron has been a great defensive center fielder. At 35 he may be slowing down, but he’s still going to be an upgrade from Hall. He also sets off a cute little chain reaction, sending Hall to third base and Braun to left field. This will also carry over to pitching, as more balls fielded=lower E.R.A.
- Cameron’s numbers from the last couple seasons are deceiving since he played in a very spacious pitcher’s park in San Diego. He hit .242/.328/.431 last season, but his line on the road was .254/.341/.449. Furthermore, his career OBP is .341, which is not bad at all. I expect 2008 to look close to his career numbers since Miller Park is much more hitter-friendly than Petco Park.
- When you compare Cameron to some departed players, even the .328 OBP from last year doesn’t look bad. In 420 ABs Jenkins’ OBP was .319, in 288 ABs Mench’s was .305 and in 442 ABs Estrada’s was a putrid .296. A lot of improvement will be addition by subtraction.
- He brings better speed and baserunning.
- Before Cameron’s signing, left field likely would have been a Gross/Dillon (or Kapler) platoon. Now with Braun, Cameron and Hart all as full-time starters, Gross can be the fourth outfielder Dillon can be the supersub. This strengthens the bench substantially.
There’s a reason I had more to say about the pros than the cons: I think it’s a good move overall. Sure he’s not lefty, and sure his OBP isn’t great, but it improved the team defense drastically, it keeps the bench solid and the Brewers still have their surplus of starting pitching to deal from at a later time. The Crew will once again have the NL Central’s best offense, as seven of their regular starters have the ability to hit 20 home runs.
I have to admit that at the end of ’07 I was pretty concerned that the Brewers would not take Braun off third base. Even though I pretty much knew by this time that they fully intended to send him to the outfield, it’s nice that it is official. It is pretty crappy that Hall gets moved again, but I’m sure he’ll live.
Before I wrap this up, there’s one thing I’d like to nip in the bud right now. Ryan Braun’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) last season was .373. League average is around .300. Braun is a skilled player who hits the ball hard, so it makes sense that he would be above average, but .373 is just downright fluky. Couple that with his low walk rate, and Braun is due for some regression due to plain ol’ luck, probably dropping his batting average to around .300.
So what’s the point of me saying this now? Because I know people will be complaining that his move to the outfield is affecting his offense and speculating that the Brewers made a mistake. So, basically, when I claim that Braun was bound to regress a bit offensively, I can show them this post dated January 12.
But anyways. It seems strange to claim that the signing of Mike Cameron could put a team over the top, but due to the extenuating circumstances of getting Braun off of third base I see this as the move that pushes the Brewers past the Cubs for the N.L. Central.