Yesterday, I posted an idea regarding a potential free agent signing for a Cubs bench position in 2010. Admittedly, this wasn't the most important possible addition to the roster for next year -- however, the Cubs had a very poor bench in 2009 and I still think Chad Tracy (at the right price) would be a good addition.
Today, I'm going to analyze two players who have been mentioned as possible center fielders for the Cubs in 2010. Again, for the purposes of this exercise, assume that Milton Bradley has already been traded somewhere and not for another outfielder; that Kosuke Fukudome will be returned to right field, and that the Tigers' Curtis Granderson (who would be my first choice) is either not made available for trade by Detroit or has been dealt somewhere else.
Marlon Byrd has played eight seasons in the major leagues with three teams (the Phillies, the Nationals and the Rangers). He was the Phillies' regular center fielder in 2003, his rookie season; he played well enough to finish fourth in Rookie of the Year voting (behind Dontrelle Willis, Scott Podsednik and Brandon Webb). Declining quickly in his second year, he found himself dumped to the Nats, and signed with the Rangers as a free agent after the 2006 season. He never got full-time playing time again until last year, when he put up a very good .283/.329/.479 year with a career-high 20 HR and 89 RBI, numbers he hadn't come close to previously. His .808 OPS was in the same general area as his other two part-time seasons in Texas; overall he hit .295/.352/.468 (.820 OPS) in his three years as a Ranger.
Further, he seems to have been helped by Rangers Ballpark -- he posted an OPS over 100 points higher at home in each of his three seasons in Texas, although his career OPS is also higher at home (.810) than on the road (.716).
Byrd is 32. He will be 33 in August. His 2009 season appears to be an outlier in terms of power (his 43 doubles tied for 8th in the AL) and these are just the types of numbers that Jim Hendry often gets sucked into giving a three-year backloaded contract to. I'd stay away from Byrd.
With Mike Cameron, you know exactly what you're getting. He will be 37 in January, and over the 11 seasons since he became a fulltime regular in 1999 (not counting the two years prior to that when he had fewer than 500 PA for the White Sox), his OPS has ranged from .759 to .837. He's averaged 22 HR, 75 RBI, 66 walks and 143 strikeouts over those 11 seasons -- and his 2009 season was pretty close to that (24 HR, 70 RBI, 75 BB, 156 K).
At 37, he might have to be rested from time to time and for that, the Cubs have Sam Fuld. In a lineup that has Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and (presumably) a healthy and 2008-style Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto, Cameron could hit sixth or seventh, as he did in Milwaukee, and produce the same way he did there. In 138 career PA at Wrigley Field, Cameron has hit .261/.355/.521 with 8 HR, and hits .257/.349/.454 in day games.
At 37 -- well, you wouldn't want to give a longterm deal to a guy like that. But a one-year contract with a mutual option for a second year based on incentives -- I'd do that. Cameron is also familiar to Lou Piniella, who managed him for three years in Seattle -- two of those years the Mariners went to the postseason.
Mike Cameron isn't my first choice; as I wrote last week, that would be Curtis Granderson. But -- if Granderson isn't available, Cameron would be a good second pick.