I've got to say; I absolutely love this signing for the Milwaukee Brewers. Mike Cameron may not play the Gold Glove defense he did several years ago, but he's still light years ahead of Bill Hall in Center Field. Cameron is set to sign with the Brew Crew for around $7 million dollars, but that won't be the real cost for the Brewers as Cameron is suspended for the first 25 games of the season resulting in a total salary of somewhere near $4.2 million. The are two reasons I love this deal for the Brewers:
1) This is the reason most everyone will like this deal. Signing Cameron drastically improves the defense (both infield and outfield) which was an Achilles heal for them last year. This allows Milwaukee to move Bill Hall (once again!) back to 3rd base for yet another crack at the infield, and the much ballyhooed Ryan Braun to Left Field where his poor footwork will be, at least slightly, masked. Cameron, while not the player he once was, is a fairly large upgrade in terms of defense from the still learning Hall, and while Hall hasn't played 3rd base in quite some time, I'm guessing a trash can would have a better fielding percentage* than Braun. While moving Braun to LF will, eventually, block the arrival of Milwaukee's newest heavy hitting draft pick, Matt Laporta, this is a problem most teams like to have and I'm guessing the Brew Crew are no exception.
2) While the defensive upgrade will likely take most of the spotlight from this signing, I actually think there is an offensive upgrade here as well. Cameron is a low average, high power hitter that plays a scarce position. Bill Hall had much better numbers when he was in the infield playing a more familiar position, so I'm assuming some level of re-acclimation to the infield, and thus a better season offensively. The Brewers lost Geoff Jenkins this offseason, and while they weren't reluctant to see him go, he did have production that needed to be replaced. I believe that Cameron can absolutely replace this offensive production while, as I mentioned, vastly improving the Brewers defense. In addition, I think it is highly unlikely we will see the same type of power out of SS J.J. Hardy, and so this power would need to be replaced and I think the addition of Cameron accomplishes that goal as well.
This signing not only improves the Brewers defense this year, but also their offense. All I can say is the Brewer pitchers are likely, or should be, rejoicing in their homes, and the fans of the Beermakers should look forward to battling the Cubs in August/September because it should be a tight race for the NL Central crown.
*Fielding percentage isn't the best, nor my favorite analysis tool to rate fielders but I thought the joke worked better this way.
P.S.- ESPN is reporting the deal to be worth $7 million with a vesting option (might be mutual, didn't quite catch it when they announced it), so his adjusted 2008 salary should be...readjusted. I'm too tired to do the math.