Friday, November 6, 2009

Cameron an option with Hermida in fold

The signing of Jeremy Hermida might be a lottery ticket, a flier on a former first-round draft pick with untapped talent. But it also presents questions about how the Red Sox might put together their outfield should Jason Bay skip town.

J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida all are lefthanded hitters -- and that might be a little more lefty-heavy than Theo Epstein or Terry Francona want their outfield to be.

The possibility of a platoon situation, though, remains viable.

That's where Mike Cameron comes into play.

The 36-year-old outfielder almost certainly will not return to Milwaukee now that the Brewers acquired Carlos Gomez from the Twins. Cameron has been a starting outfielder for most of his career -- and an All-Star-caliber outfielder at that -- but his age and the depressed free-agent market means he might not be able to be picky with his next destination.

Boston could be that destination.

Cameron, first and foremost, is a terrific defensive outfielder. His Ultimate Zone Rating (10.0) ranked him 12th in the major leagues last season, and his Fielding Bible Plus-Minus (plus-5) ranked him 16th in the major leagues. A year ago, he had an UZR of 11.3 and a plus-minus of 12.

He'd be a substantial defensive upgrade over Bay, an outfielder who, no matter what his agent says, is well below average at getting to the ball.

But Cameron also is a righthanded hitter with a career OPS of .859 against lefthanded pitching -- something the Red Sox desperately need if they don't bring back Bay. They can't go up against CC Sabathia with four or five lefties in their lineup -- not, at least, if they plan on scoring any runs.

He also probably would enjoy taking aim at the Green Monster, at least as far as his home-run chart is concerned:

Cameron is a career center fielder but, given his skills, probably could adapt either to left field or right field. He could platoon with Hermida in left field -- especially on the road, where defense is more of an issue than at Fenway Park. (Hermida has been a below-average outfielder throughout his career.)

He also could spell Drew in right field against lefthanded pitching without costing the Red Sox anything in the way of defense. Here's how it might break down:

Against LHP at home: Cameron LF, Ellsbury CF, Drew RF
(Hermida could spell Drew every once in a while.)
Against RHP at home: Hermida LF, Ellsbury CF, Drew RF
Against LHP on the road: Cameron LF, Ellsbury CF, Drew RF
(Hermida again could spell Drew sometimes.)
Against RHP on the road: Cameron LF, Ellsbury CF, Drew RF

(You could make an argument that Cameron belongs in center field more than Ellsbury given their disparate numbers. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Cameron has professed a desire to play center field with whichever team lands him, and there are those who believe Ellsbury's future lies in left field. But Ellsbury still has all the tools to be an elite center fielder, and if that's what the Red Sox see him being, he needs to keep playing out there to learn how to read the ball off the bat better.)

Cameron wouldn't exactly hit cleanup in the Red Sox lineup the way Bay did. He might not even hit sixth or seventh.

But preventing runs is just as important at scoring runs, and Cameron can prevent runs in the outfield with the best of them. Signing Cameron, in fact, might give the Red Sox one of the best defensive outfields in the major leagues -- and if he can hit the ball hard against lefthanded pitching, he might be just the right fit.

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