If you had told me in October that Mike Cameron could be had for a $5MM, one-year deal, I would've been spared an awful lot of thinking. Given the free-agent/trade options, this is the best possible outcome for the Brewers, and it isn't even close.
First of all, I should say that I'm really surprised Doug Melvin opted for the Braun-to-LF, Hall-to-3B scenario. If this was Strat-o-Matic, that would be obviously the right move, but even a hardcore stathead like me can see that it might not be the best idea to move Billy for the second year in a row, and to give Braun something else to think about in his first full season in the bigs.
Now that it's done, though, I think it'll be ok. Of course Hall has played plenty of third base in his life, and--knock on wood--I can't see his bat suffering any more than it did last year. I'm a bit more worried about Braun, but LF is probably the easiest position on the diamond, and he's an athletic guy. What's more, he's got three and a half months until Opening Day to get after it.
On to the good part. Mike Cameron is quite possibly the best defensive center fielder in baseball. This move improves our defensive substantially at two positions--3B and CF--and it probably makes Braun less of a liability in that regard.
Better still, Cameron is a solid offensive contributor. His unadjusted stats--242/328/431--are not too inspiring for 2007 in Petco, but taking the park into account, that's an above-average offensive player at a premium defensive position. And it's the worst he's hit since 1998. While Menchkins was (were? I'm not up to speed on the grammar of platoon names) decent last year, their park-adjusted stats were not as good.
In addition to having two position players switch spots, there is a negative: Cameron's 25-game suspension to open the season. It's certainly not ideal, but if that's what meant we could get him for $5MM instead of $10MM (which is probably what he's worth on a one-year deal), it's a small price to pay. Either Gwynn will hold down the fort for a few weeks, or Hart will play center and Gross, etc. will cover right. Not a huge loss either way.
There's one more negative: LaPorta is now blocked. If Braun is in left, I think it's safe to assume that he's not going back to third anytime soon. I'm not sure how big of a deal this is. There was speculation from draft day on that LaPorta was drafted as trade bait for the 2008 or '09 club. Maybe that'll still happen. Or maybe Corey Hart will go on the block, with Braun moving to right. Whatever happens, it probably won't happen this year, and the current alignment of the team gives us many more reasons to be excited about 2008 than anything beyond that.
One more interesting aspect here. I assumed all along that however we filled the 3B/LF/CF gap, it would involve trading Capuano. It certainly looked that way when the Rolen trade was on the table. While Cappy is no more than a 4th starter right now, he's still quite useful. A rotation of Sheets/Gallardo/Suppan/Cappy/Bush projects a whole lot better than anything involving Vargas, and it means Villanueva can either contribute from the pen, or be the #6 guy, as (inevitably) need be. It also gives us the chance to deal Cappy at the deadline for whatever we need then--maybe he'll bounce back in the first half and we'll get more value for him in July than we would right now.
If you can't tell, I'm ecstatic. Signing Cameron for five million bucks erases all the stupidity of the Estrada/Mota/Wise disaster, and more.