July 5, 2011
Transaction Analysis Blog
Marlins Acquire Cameron
On Friday, John Perrotto wrote that Boston had little hope of moving Cameron in a trade—citing scouts who think the center fielder is toast—and it’s important to keep that in mind when dreaming up the identity of the player to be named later. In a way, this trade is similar in scope to the last two struck between the Red Sox and Marlins, and neither of those saw a player of value exchanged for the “name” portion of the deal:
The Marlins have been on the lookout for a center field solution since trading their own Cameron during the winter. Chris Coghlan disappointed then suffered an injury, and the replacements Florida has thrown into center have not done much better—it is almost as if DeWayne Wise, Emilio Bonifacio, and Bryan Petersen are not major league-quality starters. Cameron enters a low-expectations environment because the alternatives have been that poor, akin to Mark Ellis joining the Rockies last week.
As a whole, Marlins center fielders have batted .233/.295/.365, and while Cameron’s time in Boston was nobody’s idea of fun, he managed a line of .219/.285/.352 against superior pitching. Maybe Cameron has a dead-cat bounce in him, or one last hot streak, but if not, perhaps he could become a decent platoon partner with Wise. It is not ideal by any means, and Cameron has struggled in 70 plate appearances against lefties this season, but ask yourself this: who seems like a better bet to provide some offensive value: Cameron or Bonifacio?
The one big change in Cameron’s underlying statistics on a year-to-year basis is his declining power and increasing pop-up rate. In the three seasons prior to Cameron’s signing with Boston, he had 45 percent of his hits go for extra bases and hit 14 percent infield flies. With Boston, he had 36 percent of his hits go for extra bases and hit a pop fly in 17 percent—including a 22 percent mark this season. Those numbers are going in the wrong ways, and while it does not ensure that Cameron’s bat has slowed, it sure gives some water to theory that he has to cheat on pitches in order to hit them authoritatively.
There is a legitimate chance Cameron is done as a productive major leaguer, and because of possibility, there is a legitimate chance Cameron is in his final days as a major leaguer. Say what you will about Florida’s budgetary restrictions or business practices, but they tend to work quickly in cutting bait. Jose Lopez, signed earlier in the season to a minor league deal, received 31 plate appearances before hitting the road (albeit a poor 31 plate appearances, as he reached base five times); Richardson, acquired in the Miller deal, lasted 32 innings in Triple-A; Jones got around 46 innings; and so on. Florida might not be spending a lot of money, but that doesn’t preclude them from understanding sunk costs.
If Cameron looks done to them, then he might not make it until August, and that would be a rather sad ending for arguably one of the game’s greatest defensive center fielders of all-time.