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Cameron and the Red Sox Outfield

12.16.09 at 10:46 am ET
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A few thoughts on Mike Cameron and the Red Sox outfield:

–Two talent evaluators suggested that, right now, the three-time Gold Glove Cameron is a better defender than Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield. He also has a stronger arm than Ellsbury, which would play better in center. Ellsbury’€™s strength right now comes on his side-to-side routes, while he sometimes struggles to judge the depth of the ball. Cameron’€™s talents translate right now to moving in all directions.

That said, the Sox believe that Ellsbury will improve in center as he becomes more familiar with the league. Eventually, he could be Cameron’€™s equal at the position. (In that context, it is worth noting that Cameron is regarded as still above-average, but that at 36, his range is not what it once was.)

That being the case, assuming that the Sox view Ellsbury as a key contributor for the next four years (and not as someone who could be traded out of the organization), they might be better served to let him continue his development in centerfield, rather than turning him into an outstanding left-fielder and entrusting the position to Cameron.

Jeremy Hermida‘€™s situation becomes an interesting one to consider now that Cameron is on board. The Sox did not sign Cameron to a two-year, $15.5 million deal to have him be a platoon player. That being the case, Hermida could struggle to get at-bats, barring injury or trade of Cameron, Ellsbury or J.D. Drew.

According to a major-league source, the Sox had told Hermida that they were inclined to try to trade him if they re-signed Jason Bay. It will be interesting to see whether Cameron’€™s arrival leads to a similar outcome.

Hermida, acquired from the Marlins earlier this offseason, is likely to make a bit more than $3 million as a second-time arbitration-eligible player.

UPDATE: While the Sox might have been inclined to shop Hermida had they signed Bay or Matt Holliday, they believe that he will be able to receive a healthy number of at-bats with Cameron on board. Even though Hermida will be one of three left-handed hitting outfielders for the Sox (along with Ellsbury and Drew), the team is hopeful that he will get enough at-bats to see whether he will be able to realize some of the considerable potential that he flashed earlier in his career. Hermida is best suited for left, but can play either corner; the presence of Ellsbury and Cameron gives the Sox positional flexibility so that Hermida can be a first option as a substitute for any of the three outfield regulars.

–On the other hand, Cameron could make it palatable for the Sox to consider moving Ellsbury in a deal. FoxSports.com is reporting that the Sox are making a renewed push to acquire Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and now might consider a package of Clay Buchholz and Ellsbury for the masher. The report cautions that a deal is not close, and may never be, but moving Ellsbury as part of a blockbuster would represent one way to free up a potential positional logjam.

UPDATE: The Red Sox do not anticipate any deals that might include both Ellsbury and Buchholz in the same package.

–Cameron has expressed a willingness to play all three outfield positions, and the Sox believe that the incredibly athletic outfielder is entirely capable of doing so. However, Cameron has not played a corner outfield spot since incurring a brutal concussion in right field as a member of the Mets on Aug. 11, 2005, when he and centerfielder Carlos Beltran had a head-to-head collision.

–Cameron was impaired down the stretch in 2009 by hamstring and ankle injuries. Though he played 149 games, he stole just seven bases, a career-low. Still, he receives raves for the shape in which he keeps himself, and so he was viewed as a reasonable bet to stay healthy for the next two years. That said, if his legs are in decline, that would jeopardize the very asset (Cameron’€™s defense) that proved so important in convincing the Red Sox to make a play for him.

Read More: carlos beltran, J.D Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida
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