Potential Trade Target: Mike Cameron

Chip Buck of fellow Sweet Spot blog Fire Brand of the American League looked at potential destinations for Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron. One of those teams, obviously, was the Phillies, given the loss of Jayson Werth and the injury to Domonic Brown. He quotes Sox beat writer Nick Cafardo, but also added:

By adding Cameron, the Phillies would accomplish three objectives: (1) they’d balance out their lineup by adding a right-handed power bat that works counts and draws walks; (2) they’d shore up their outfield defense in right field; and (3) they’d be afforded the opportunity to give Domonic Brown additional development time in AAA. Cameron’s relatively cheap ($7.5M) short-term contract makes him an ideal option for the Phillies as he gives them an opportunity to win now without sacrificing the future.

Cameron does not come without risk — he had abdominal surgery during the off-season, but he says he is healthy and ready to contribute. In 11 spring training at-bats so far, he has five hits including one double.

However, that risk is very much outweighed by the reward. Cameron is still an above-average hitter, particularly against lefties, against whom he has a .381 career wOBA. Furthermore, he still has the ability to play above-average defense. In 2009, he finished with the third-highest Revised Zone Rating (RZR) at .960, just behind leader Franklin Gutierrez at .965. His UZR/150 was not quite as flattering, but impressive nonetheless at +11.4.

Adding Cameron would allow Charlie Manuel to bench Raul Ibanez against left-handed starters. So, against lefty starters, the Phillies would have both Cameron’s .381 wOBA and Ben Francisco‘s .352. Currently, the Phillies have Ibanez’s .329 wOBA against lefties in the lineup, so Cameron would add about 50 points of wOBA.

Using the formula ( ( Player’s wOBA – League average wOBA ) / 1.15 ) * Player’s PA, we can find out the run differentials per 650 plate appearances and convert the differentials into wins. Last year, 62 percent of the Phillies’ PA came against right-handed pitching, so I will be using that proportion of 650 PA.

Current Lineup vs. LHP

  • Ibanez: ( ( .329 – .314 ) / 1.15 ) * 247 = +3.2 runs
  • Francisco: ( ( .352 – .330 ) / 1.15 ) * 247 = +4.7 runs

Current Lineup vs. RHP

  • Ibanez: ( ( .367 – .325 ) / 1.15 ) * 403 = +14.7 runs
  • Francisco: ( ( .332 – .311 ) / 1.15 ) * 403 = +7.4 runs

Current Lineup total: 3.2 + 4.7 + 14.7 + 7.4 = 30 runs, or 3.0 wins.

New Lineup vs. LHP

  • Cameron: ( ( .381 – .330 ) / 1.15 ) * 247 = +11.0 runs
  • Francisco: ( ( .352 – .330 ) / 1.15 ) * 247 = +4.7 runs

New Lineup vs. RHP

  • Ibanez: ( ( .367 – .325 ) / 1.15 ) * 403 = +14.7 runs
  • Cameron: ( ( .331 – .311 ) / 1.15 ) * 403 = +7.0 runs

New Lineup total: 11.0 + 4.7 + 14.7 +7.0 runs = 37.4 runs, or 3.7 wins.

Adding Cameron would add nearly a full win, 0.7 to be exact. By that fact alone, making a trade is worth it, but also because the Phillies will have adequate insurance in the event that Domonic Brown never fully recovers during the season, or if another outfielder succumbs to an injury. Let’s say Ibanez spends significant time on the disabled list. An outfield of Cameron-Victorino-Francisco is a lot better than Mayberry-Victorino-Francisco, isn’t it?

Ken Rosenthal notes that the Phillies are “tapped out”, which has been said frequently over the past two years, but has never turned out to be the total truth. The Phillies, however, could move Joe Blanton in a trade for Cameron. Blanton will earn $8.5 million in each of the next two seasons while Cameron will earn $7.25 million before becoming a free agent at the end of the season. There were rumors during the off-season that involved Blanton and the Red Sox that were never realized.

Over at Brotherly Glove, the new Phillies blog of brothers Eric and Corey Seidman, Eric expresses doubt that a deal for Cameron is worth it, but I disagree.

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24 comments

  1. Frank

    March 09, 2011 08:49 AM

    I think the Red Sox need a RH of bat more than the Phils….not sure why they would move him.

  2. LarryM

    March 09, 2011 09:22 AM

    Very conflicted about this. This year may be the Phillies last chance to contend with the current cast of players, so getting a player who could add a win or two would be great. OTOH, for the same reason it isn’t the best time to trade a couple of their better prospects, which I assume they would need to do to get Cameron.

    If they can get him for scraps, sure, go for it.

  3. sean

    March 09, 2011 09:23 AM

    “Cameron’s relatively cheap ($7.5M).” 7.5 is not relatively cheap, maybe in red sox dollars it is. the notion of just trade blanton isn’t realistic. i’d rather have mayberry who granted is inexperienced, but in my opinion is basically a younger, healthier version of mike cameron; a rightie that is good against left handed pitching, except that mayberry can play all 3 outfield spots.

    cameron is a centerfielder, the last time he played a posistion other then center field was in 2005 with the mets and from what i remember he didn’t like it or didn’t play as well there. not saying he CAN’T play it but just that i don’t view him as anything other then a centerfielder much like carl crawford is just a left fielder even though he could be a centerfielder

  4. awh

    March 09, 2011 09:50 AM

    Bill, your last two posts have been excellent, especialy the previous one on Raul Ibanez, with which I agree.

    I see him having a pretty good year – health permitting.

    As for trading for Cameron?

    Sure, Cameron adds nearly 1 win, but what’s the dropoff form Balnton to Kendrick?

    Would they lose the same win they had just picked up?

  5. Bill Baer

    March 09, 2011 09:54 AM

    Sean,

    I think I’m going to write a post on Mayberry. Surprised there are a decent number of people supporting him. I don’t see what there is to like.

    awh,

    I would hope they wouldn’t go with Kendrick; they ought to go with Vance Worley. Worley basically has the same skill set as Blanton: a K/9 between 6-7 and a BB/9 around 2.5. Worley also induces a decent amount of ground balls.

    The drop-off from Blanton to Worley wouldn’t be that much, if there is any at all.

  6. sean

    March 09, 2011 10:25 AM

    well as chaseingutley said on twitter you’re basing the mayberry thing on 77 Pa in the majors and his track record in the minors. if he works as the rightie bat that can play defense and you’re paying the minimum it’s worth just trying mayberry out instead of getting cameron and paying 7.5 million + prospects to get him.

    as for if blanton being traded it would be KK’s spot to lose cause money talks

  7. Dave

    March 09, 2011 10:30 AM

    To quote my inner spammer:

    “I fully support your ideas of this blog.”

    I always liked Cameron. I think there are parallels to the Phillies acquiring Kenny Lofton a few years back – an OF who was perceived to be over-the-hill, but ended up being pretty solid.

  8. Scott G

    March 09, 2011 10:38 AM

    Bill,

    Recently you posted an article about lineup optimization. You basically spit on 1.3 additional wins that could be added using the PECOTA predictions. I commented asking why you would spit on 1.3 wins, but you never responded. Now, you think it’s worth it for the Phillies to trade Joe Blanton for an old player, who you deem to be possibly susceptible to injury to gain 0.7 wins?

    I mean I LOVE having Joe Blanton as a 5th starter. Easily the best fifth starter in baseball. He’s also an excellent replacement should one of the big guys get injured. To suggest making a trade for a question mark, when all you really need to do is optimize the lineup without gaining/losing anyone… I just don’t follow it.

    Yes, you need to assume the PECOTA predictions are correct. You also need to assume the other predictions are correct, and you need to assume Mike Cameron won’t get hurt.

    The team would be much better served keeping Blanton, or using him in a trade for a new 2B if Utley will need any sort of surgery. Rumors are flying this morning involving those two things.

  9. Bill Baer

    March 09, 2011 10:45 AM

    I wouldn’t say I spit on it, it’s just that people go gung-ho over lineups when they end up not meaning nearly as much as perceived. Teams should always go for those little incremental advantages. Yes, the Phillies should bat Ruiz lead-off, but it’s not realistic because the baseball zeitgeist hasn’t shifted that way yet.

    Additionally, there are some clubhouse management issues that come with trendy lineup swaps. Some players take their spot in the lineup as a badge of honor — remember how Jimmy Rollins refused to move from the lead-off spot? Would Ryan Howard take kindly to moving to the #8 spot?

    Overall, drastically altering lineups create more problems than they solve, which is why I tend to scoff at the idea.

    Teams do end up winning divisions and even championships by eking out those extra little advantages, so they absolutely should optimize their lineup.

    With my Cameron suggestion, I’m basically taking some of the starting rotation certainty and shifting it to the outfield, the Phillies’ biggest weakness right now.

  10. Scott G

    March 09, 2011 11:49 AM

    The most optimal lineup has Howard batting 4th, not 8th. Does Jimmy Rollins have any room to make offensive demands at this point? The “optimal” lineup that you posted wouldn’t really move anyone into an “unwanted” spot except for Rollins.

    Someone (Mike Schmidt) should sit him down, and spell out that he’s more of a slugger than an on-base guy. Not that he’s overwhelmingly either, but getting on base isn’t really his forte.

    Who cares if it ruffles feathers if it works. Players should have team-first mentalities as Jimmy Rollins has proclaimed many times.

  11. Bill Baer

    March 09, 2011 11:50 AM

    I’m in total agreement with you, the problem is that their mindset about the lineups isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Look at how long it took even for OBP to be recognized as meaningful.

  12. Scott G

    March 09, 2011 12:46 PM

    I said this before, and I’m completely serious (partially haha). You need to get their attention. Talk to RAJ… orrrr, I’ve always wanted a job with the Phillies being a statistician, or using statistics to help scout. I feel like I could do that all day everyday. We need an inside man.

  13. Josh

    March 09, 2011 02:01 PM

    One of the arguments you use was the depth factor. Can’t the same thing be said about keeping Blanton? If one of R2C2 goes down for even just 3 or 4 starts, wouldn’t a rotation that includes Blanton over either Worley or Kendrick add a win % that could equal a game or two? This is a strategy the Red Sox used for years a few seasons ago to some success.

  14. Josh B

    March 09, 2011 02:22 PM

    I wouldn’t want to give up Blanton for an aging outfielder who spent a lot of last year on the dl.

  15. Richard

    March 09, 2011 03:01 PM

    There just aren’t any hitters worth getting.

  16. LarryinLA

    March 09, 2011 06:31 PM

    This analysis is not correct. The League average has to be the same for all the hitters, or at least consider only the pitcher handedness. Cameron doesn’t produce less because other RHB hit better against LHP. The formula is:

    (Player 1 wOBA – Player 2 wOBA) / 1.15 * PA = change in runs produced

    Improvement vs. LHP:
    Replace Ibanez w/ Cameron:
    (.381 – .329) / 1.15 * 247 = +11.2 runs

    Vs. RHP
    Replace Francisco w/ Cameron:
    (.331 – .332) / 1.15 * 403 = -0.4 runs

    The gain is 10.8 runs, 11.2 if you don’t downgrade by using Cameron against RHP. The platoon splits also need to be regressed

  17. Bill Baer

    March 09, 2011 07:40 PM

    Larry,

    Why wouldn’t we compare Cameron to the population? If RH hitters who crush LHP are common, then there’s less of a need to acquire Cameron since they’re more freely available.

    The reason to go after Cameron is that his production against LHP is significantly better than the average, making him stand apart from the population.

  18. LarryinLA

    March 09, 2011 08:19 PM

    Bill,

    I disagree for the purposes of the analysis you do above. You are comparing Phillies with Cameron to Phillies without Cameron. Not to Phillies without Cameron but with an average (not replacement – average) RHB platoon partner for Ibanez.

    Let me put it this way. Say instead of Cameron we were looking at the aforementioned average RHB, call him R.H. Average. R.H Average has a wOBA of .330 vs. LHP. Ibanez has a wOBA of .329 vs. LHP. Are the Phillies better against LHP with Ibanez, or with R.H. Average? Your analysis says Ibanez is 3.4 runs better than Mr. Average against LHB. But that is absurd, the Phillies are getting better quality plate appearances from Mr. Average than from Mr. Ibanez (by .001 of wOBA).

  19. Scott G

    March 09, 2011 10:34 PM

    I would also assume we want to know about current Phillies vs. Cameron Phillies since that’s the bottom line of what we’re investigating.

  20. harry

    March 10, 2011 01:30 PM

    blanton for cameron no go we can get more for blanton maybe mike young if they can get cameron cheap ok but not for blanton.

  21. LuckyNucky

    March 10, 2011 02:42 PM

    Hey Bill, Nice try. Baseballreference.(com) doesn’t even list Raul to Mike in the Top 10.
    I don’t see the difference if all your similarities add up. Ibanez is a LH and Cameron is a RH. Both about the same age. But the point about a RH Power-hitter makes this a good deal. However, I can’t trade Blanton for that one aspect. KK maybe..

  22. hk

    March 10, 2011 04:27 PM

    Bill (and others),

    I read on MLB Trade Rumors that the Royals are looking for a young catcher and that they are making Alex Gordon available. If this information is correct, would you trade Sebastian Valle for Gordon? Gordon’s been considered a disappointment so far, yet his career wOBA is the same as Polanco’s wOBA last year. If he’s a late bloomer, it could turn out to be a very good pick-up. He could play 3B while Utley is out with Polanco moving to 2B and they could probably still find 2 or 3 starts a week for him after Utley (hopefully) returns.

  23. ????

    March 15, 2011 10:02 PM

    I agree with your conclusion; Cameron’s not really the guy to trade (although Linares looks good). A better question, it seems to me, is whether they can get a reasonable return for a LHH, preferably Reddick (whose sell-by date is approaching).

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