As much as we don’t like to comment on rumors from The Post, in an earlier thread today, Steve noted a brief piece in Alexander Hamilton’s paper suggesting that the Yanks are interested in Mike Cameron. Since the Yanks are looking for a center fielder and Cameron could be a free agent this year, it’s worth it to spend a few minutes looking at Cameron.
First up is the issue of Cameron’s current contract. In 2008, the Brewers paid the outfielder $5 million. They hold a $10 million option or a $750,000 buyout. If the Brewers either need a center fielder or anticipate a high demand for Cameron, they could opt to pick up the buyout. However, $10 million for his level of production at his age seems a bit steep.
So going under the assumption that Mike Cameron will be a free agent, what would this option look like? Cameron will be 36 on Opening Day and has always been a good defender. For his career, he’s a .250 hitter with a 106 OPS+. He still has decent power — .477 slugging in park that slightly favors hitters — but he’s coming off successive seasons at around .240 with an OBP hovering around .330.
Clearly, in this regard, Cameron wouldn’t be much of a long-term solution in center. He’s too old; he’s not very good at hitting. But should the Yanks even consider him as a short-term solution?
Right now, the Yankees have a few center field options. They could keep Johnny Damon in center. That is, by far, their best offensive option but their worst defensive choice. They could go with some platoon of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Odds are that one or both of them could get on base at a better clip than Cameron, but the power isn’t even close. They could look to trade for someone such as Matt Kemp or Nate McLouth, but neither of those would come cheap or with guarantees.
Cameron is definitely not Plan A for the Yankees. He probably isn’t even Plan B in center, but the Yanks are more concerned, rightly so, with CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Cameron would be acceptable as a one-year solution if the Yanks felt that Austin Jackson would be ready by 2010. But fans advocating for this solution should be aware that Cameron’s offense will not be the great. He’ll hit a bit for power, but he strikes out a lot and doesn’t get on base. It’s a lukewarm option at best.