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Red Sox Go For Defense, Ink Mike Cameron

Yesterday, the Red Sox and Mike Cameron agreed to a two-year, $15.5M deal. While logically, Cameron would be placed in center with the incumbent Jacoby Ellsbury moving to left, but it appears that the Red Sox will be deploying Cameron in left field as Jason Bay's replacement.

While the Red Sox are likely to lose some offensive value with this move, Bay's been worth 30+ runs offensively in four of the past five seasons while Cameron has posted just 30.1 runs offensively in the past three seasons total. But while Bay is far superior to Cameron as a hitter, Cameron is also one of the better defensive center fielders in the game, while Bay has consistently posted very poor defensive metrics for three straight years, with a -7.9 UZR/150 for his career.

All in all, Cameron was worth 4.3 WAR last season, compared to Bay's 3.5 mark, and Bay hasn't posted a more valuable season than Cameron, according to WAR, since 2006. Cameron likely won't retain as much of his defensive value in left field, a position that he's played in only 10 innings in his entire career, but given his impressive tools and track record in center, it's likely that he'll still be 5-10 runs above average in left. Considering Ellsbury's apparent struggles defensively last season, he posted a horrid -18.6 UZR, and his projected struggles for 2010, Jeff Zimmerman projects his UZR for next season at -9, it seems logical that Cameron would supplant Ellsbury in center, which presumably would give Boston one of the better defensive outfields in the game with those two and J.D. Drew in right.

Factoring in what Bay's apparent asking price is, 5 years at $14-16M per season, and St. Louis's reported 8-year, $128M offer to Matt Holliday, it seems like the Red Sox just landed a major bargain in Cameron, who's very quietly been one of the most productive outfielders of the decade. They've greatly improved their run prevention this offseason if they choose to go with Cameron, Scutaro, Youkilis and Kotchman for LF/SS/3B/1B rather than the Bay, Green/Lugo, Lowell and Youkilis group that dominated the playing time last season. Kudos to Theo Epstein and company for not caving in on Bay's demands, and recognizing that Cameron, rather than Holliday, was an ideal investment for the team.