This season, Melky Cabrera has been worth 0.7 WAR as a center fielder. He’s not hitting particularly well (wOBA is .326, second lowest in the AL) and his defense has been below average (UZR/150 of -6.9). He’s basically better than he was a year ago, but when you consider that Melky was worth 0.1 WAR last season (barely better than replacement), the upgrade we’ve seen this season isn’t very tremendous.
That brings me to Mike Cameron. In the offseason, the Yankees were said to be interested in acquiring Cameron from the Brewers. We heard a few trade ideas floating around, including a package that featured Melky Cabrera and Kei Igawa (while I’m not sure about Igawa, Melky always seemed like the centerpiece for any deal). However, the Yankees apparently wanted to keep Melky after his strong play in the Dominican League and they wondered if they had something with Brett Gardner. Plus, Cameron’s $10 million salary was a bit of a hurdle, especially after adding Andy Pettitte and Mark Teixeira (and CC and A.J.). For these reasons, Mike Cameron did not join the Yankees this winter and the team was relatively content with trying Melky and Gardner in 2009. Looking back on it, though, I wonder if it was the right decision.
Melky has been mediocre and Gardner has been solid (2 WAR), especially on the defensive side of things, yet Cameron has been stellar in center for Milwaukee. His .258/.358/.459 line and .354 wOBA would have been a significant upgrade over Melky or Gardner and his defense (7.7 UZR/150) is on par with Gardner’s, although Gardner has been better. Cameron’s speed has all but faded, though, as he has only stolen 6 bases on the season. All in all, because of his bat and his glove, Cameron has been a 3.9 WAR player, good for 5th best in baseball (at CF).
Knowing what you know now about Melky, in particular, Gardner and Cameron, would you have traded Melky for Cameron in the offseason (Gardner could have been a stolen base threat off the bench)? He seems like he would have provided the Yankees the best of both worlds—hitting and defense—and, although $10 million isn’t chump change, being a 4-win player has made him more than worth it. Imagine a lineup that featured him behind or in front of Cano in the playoffs—that would have been something.