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Last offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers decided not to attempt to re-sign Mike Cameron, despite the fact that Cameron had indicated a willingness to sign a discounted contract in order to stay with the team. In order to fill the hole in center field, the Brewers traded J.J. Hardy for Carlos Gomez, and also added Jim Edmonds to a minor league deal.
This is the sixth time that Mike Cameron has changed teams. The 1998 White Sox went 80-82, and went 75-86 in ’99 after trading him to Cincinnati. The 1999 Reds were 96-67; in 2000 they were 85-77 after Cameron left to Seattle via free agency. The Mariners went 93-69 in 2003, Cameron’s final year in Seattle. They would go 63-99 in 2004. The New York Mets are the only team to have improved upon Cameron’s departure, moving from 83-162 to 97-162. The Padres had Cameron for their playoff run in 2007 when they went 89-73. Cameron would be a part of the Brewers 2008 playoff run as the Padres sank to 63-99. Finally, the 2009 Brewers were 80-82, and are on pace to go 68-94 this season.
Overall, teams with Mike Cameron went 86.7-75.3 and fell to 75.3-86.7 after Cameron left. This isn’t to suggest that Cameron is actually worth 11 wins, but I feel that Cameron’s value is often understated. He’s been one of the best defensive center fielders in Major League history and likely the best CF in the game for much of his career. He’s combined that defensive magic with above average hitting, compiling a .340 career on base percentage and a .447 slugging percentage. Overall, FanGraphs has his career at a 114 wRC+, or 14% better than the average hitter. With the Brewers, Cameron put up similar numbers; a 115 wRC+, 24 runs above average in CF, and over 4.0 WAR, an all-star level, in each of his two seasons.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that the Brewers are worse without Cameron this season – he’s a great player. The pitchers miss his defense and the lineup misses his hitting. By all accounts, he’s also a tremendous clubhouse guy. He began the tradition of untucking after a victory. It was rare to see him without a smile. Cameron brought both talent and character to the Brewers. Now, the Brewers will simply be added to the list of teams who have failed after his departure.