MIKE CAMERON REVISITED
A quick reprise of some words on Mike Cameron from October 23:
Cameron is a low-average hitter with decent selectivity, some power, and a great many strikeouts. He continues to be a good fit in center, if no longer the Gold Glover he used to be. As always, the question with any player of his vintage is, “How long will he be able to stay at his present level?” which in this case would be something like .250/.325/.440. Once again, we must offer this caveat: those numbers are distinctly in the Eh Zone (adjacent to the Twilight Zone, though Rod Serling only went there for later episodes of “Night Gallery”), but the Eh Zone is an upgrade on the Melky Zone, or, as George Harrison once sang, the Sour Melk Sea. “Better” is not the same as “good.”
Cameron’s last two seasons, the most recent of which included a suspension for failing a banned stimulant test, were intriguingly consistent. Here he is against left-handers in 2007 and 2008:
You’re thinking, “Gee whiz, Fonz! That’s pretty good,” right? Let’s move on to the rates against right-handers.
Hrm. Not so good … Everything about Cameron shouts, “Beware! Player in decline!”
A couple of weeks later, I noted:
In a bad luck year, or a year in which age takes hold, Cameron could very easily slide to a below-.300 OBP. And suddenly, having gotten rid of Melky, you’re dealing with his OBP again.
My conclusion in October:
Everything about Cameron shouts, “Beware! Player in decline!” He had a difficult time getting more than a one-year deal last winter. If the Yankees blow him away with two years, they’re going to get burned, if not in year one than definitely in year two, though year one has the distinct odor of possible bust as well.
I would argue that if Brett Gardner hits as he did during his second stint with the Yankees (August 15 on), .294/.333/.412 with eight steals in nine attempts, the Yankees will be in good shape next year given the defensive bonus they should also reap from his range. If Gardner hits only as well as he did in September, .283/.321/.377, they will basically be getting what they got from Melky in his good days, plus speed. It’s not great, but you can live with it given good defense and the thought that Gardner will build with experience and reach greater heights further on, say, .295/.390/.410. Remember, Gardner is a more selective hitter than he showed in the majors this year, and these .320, .330 on-base percentages are a little low.
What the Yankees seem to be missing here is that if they upgrade in right field, they can worry less about bringing in someone expensive to play center. An outfielder-DH in the Adam Dunn mode, combined with reasonable performance from Gardner, would do far more for the team than Cameron plus an Abreu return, or Cameron plus Nady. You can make book right now on a Damon-Cameron-Nady outfield being both defensively bland and offensively subpar. This is a formula for another year of mediocre offense and thousands of words wasted on why the Yankees aren’t “clutch” when they just don’t have the runners on base to be heroic.
The Yankees need to keep thinking outside of the box — their box. The box they’re standing in right now is the 1980s box, the box of indiscriminate application of superior financial resources. It leads to big contracts for the likes of Dave Collins, not to championship rings. They had the right idea last year. They didn’t get good results for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they were wrong, just that sometimes you have to tinker with a plan before you get it right.
Six weeks later, I stand by that. Another point: Earlier today, Cliff Corcoran pointed out that Jim Edmonds is still available, and he won’t cost the Yankees anything but money. If you take his Cubs numbers (.256/.369/.568) as something he’ll be capable of revisiting at 39, then you have the makings of a pretty good center-field platoon (with someone), one that would almost certainly out-produce Cameron. Edmonds would allow Cabrera to be traded for something else of value, if there’s a market for him beyond Milwaukee, or for that matter, a more valuable Brewer — not an expensive old guy they’re trying to get rid of.
As for Melky, it’s ironic that he might go to the Brewers, because he’s basically Rick Manning, a good defensive outfielder who had a 1500-game Major League career despite doing almost nothing with the bat after his second Major League season. He spent the 4.5 years of his career with the Brewers, coming over just after they went to the 1982 World Series and did his best to impede them from going back. He succeeded. Melky’s timing is uncannily similar.
FAT, BEARDED YANKEES GUY WITH TWO SKINNY GUYS
I dropped by Bronx Banter Breakdown today at the studios of that other local sports network to talk CC Sabathia with Alex Belth and Cliff Corcoran.
Note that I got a self-deprecating “fat guy” joke in there. I think I need to hire a personal trainer to come to my house. Any trainers out there want to shrink me at a discount rate in exchange for frequent endorsements on a well-read baseball blog?