The Red Sox last night agreed to terms with Cameron on a two-year deal, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. Multiple reports pegged the deal at roughly $15.5 million…
…Bay expects to make a final decision in the next couple of days, with the Mets, Angels and Mariners the front-runners for his services. However, lurking in the weeds are Yankees, who have reached out to Bay’s representatives to express their interest, the source said.
The Yankees are not believed to have made an offer, and it was unclear last night exactly how strong their interest is, but it goes without saying that in matters of free agency, they never can be discounted.
First, on the Cameron signing – it’s a nice move. But the Red Sox have yet to (publicly) commit to playing Cameron in center field, and the general belief is that he’ll slide over to left field so Jacoby Ellsbury can remain in center. What’s the difference between Cameron in center and Cameron in left? Night and day.
In the past two seasons, Cameron has posted UZR numbers of 11.3 and 10 for the Brewers. UZR came into fashion in 2002, and since then, Cameron has consistently been among the Major League leaders in that category, including 3rd in the Majors last year – barely behind BJ Upton, but well behind Franklin Gutierrez, who appears to be a once-in-a-generation defensive outfielder. Compare this to Tacoby Bellsbury, whose UZR last year was a Major League-worst -18.6, and it would be utterly mind-boggling to see Cameron switch positions to accommodate such a horrific fielder. If the Sox decision makers are smart – and they are – they’ll take a look at the numbers and do the right thing. But should they somehow fail to do so, and decide to stick with the kid in center, they would severely damage Cameron’s value to the team.
Cameron has posted an OBP over .360 once – that was in 2000 – and has never slugged over .500 despite averaging 23 HR per season. While he posts terrific offensive slash lines for a CF, particularly one with his defensive gifts (career .250/.340/.448), he doesn’t hit like a corner outfielder. If the Sox were chasing offense, there were much better players to be had on the FA market or available through trade.
On to the Bay/Yankees rumors – I don’t buy it. The Yankees are routinely tied to any and all free agents because of their financial clout, but to me, Bay isn’t a great buy for the Yankees because he doesn’t fit Cashman’s recent MO. He isn’t particularly young (31) and he isn’t particularly athletic or solid defensively. I think Cashman is instead taking the chance that Carl Crawford will become a free agent following the 2010 season. It’s the same gamble he took in not trading for Johan Santana and instead waiting for CC Sabathia. The Yanks overwhelmed CC with cash last offseason and he became the team’s true ace en route to a World Championship. A similar scenario could unfold next offseason with Crawford, who would become, along with Cano, Granderson, Teixeira, and Sabathia, a long-term franchise cornerstone with the speed, defense, youth, and athleticism the Yankees crave. I don’t see Cashman wanting to commit to the (likely) 5 years it would take to land Jason Bay, particularly since he’s viewed as a defensive liability – the type of player the Yankees already have in spades.
Another possibility is that the Yankees view Jesus Montero as a left fielder in the long term. Montero isn’t too far away from being ML-ready. Maybe the Yankees are willing to absorb a year of Melky Cabrera in left field if they think Montero will be ready to take over in a year. Granted, Jesus has never played anywhere but C, and the Yankees are loathe to move him off the position despite the fact that most scouts agree he can’t play it well. But the fact remains that the Yankees have some future options in left field, and signing an older, big money FA to fill the spot for 5 years seems opposed to the type of team that Cashman hopes to build in the Bronx.