The Nationals agreed to terms on a minor league contract with veteran outfielder Mike Cameron. Cameron’s role will shake out in spring training, reliant, in part, on the status of top prospect Bryce Harper. The signing indicates the Nationals could be willing to use a temporary solution in center field if Harper starts the year in the minors.
Cameron gives the Nationals an accomplished, experienced center fielder, albeit one who will be 39 years old in January and struggled last season in stints with the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. He hit .203/.285/.359 combined in 269 plate appearances. The Red Sox released him because of ineffectiveness, and the Marlins released him, reportedly, because he got into a verbal altercation with a flight attendant on a team plane.
The Nationals have spent much of this offseason trying to trade for a center fielder, but signing Cameron may indicate a belief that they will not be able to land the kind of player they desired.
They still could potentially sign Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who will likely become a free agent sometime in January, and the Nationals may view Cameron’s addition as insurance if they do not land the super-athletic 26-year-old. (It could also simply mean the Nationals no longer see themselves as players for Cespedes.)
Team officials have said they will also feel comfortable with Jayson Werth playing center field in a scenario that includes Harper making the team out of spring training. But there are reasons, both baseball and business, for keeping Harper in the minors for at least the first portion of the season.
And so, the Nationals may begin the season with Werth in right field and a platoon of Mike Cameron and Roger Bernadina in center field. That, to be blunt, would have to be considered a disappointment considering the Nationals began this offseason looking for a center fielder who could provide stability at the position.
When Harper does make the team — either opening day or later in the year — the Nationals outfield, according to the current plans, would consist of Michael Morse in left, Werth in center and Harper in right.
The Nationals are still trying to add more pieces in an overhaul of their bench. They’re interested in Greg Dobbs, who according to a person familiar situation seems to prefer re-signing with the Marlins. They’ve also spoken to utility man Mark DeRosa.