The Nationals winter improvement list is no secret to anyone in the league. Sign or acquire a high OBP centerfielder, and an established, inning eating starting pitcher. So, when the news broke yesterday that the Nats had signed Mike Cameron, my first thought was, please let that not be the centerfielder we are going to count on. He is 38 and on the down slope of his very decent career. What is Rizzo thinking?
Then I let this news sink in, and I think its pretty safe to say that this is not the player the Nats will be counting on to lead off or play every day in centerfield. In fact I am fairly sure he will not even platoon with Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina. The only thing this move does is add a power bat from the right handed side to the bench. And it's safe to say, if you look at his time with the Marlins in the second half of the 2011 season (slugged .420), he still has some decent power. And, if he shows in spring training that he is done, he is only on a minor-league deal so he can simply be released.
What does all that mean for Bryce Harper? It means that the Nats have committed, at least in some sense, to Jayson Werth as their 2012 centerfielder. Which also means that they are confident Bryce Harper will be ready to go on opening day. Mike Cameron is an insurance policy on that. The Nats tried at the winter meetings to go get that young centerfielder, but the price tag for obtaining such a player was out of the range Rizzo was willing to invest.
If you would have asked me at season's end, I would have said there was no way Bryce Harper would be heading to DC out of spring training. Today, based on Davey Johnson's public statements, Bryce's Arizona Fall League performance, and the signing of Mike Cameron (in what has become an extreme seller's market) that the RF job is Bryce Harper's to lose. Werth will be penciled in to center, Beast-mode in LF, followed by Cameron and Ankiel off the bench as 4th and 5th OF (Ankiel is not a certainty, but with Davey's desire to have a power bat from both sides on the bench, re-signing Ankiel would make sense).
So there it is, CapBallers, write it down. December 19th, 2011, the Bryce Harper-era is given the green light. Thanks to a 38 year-old Outfielder, a one-time all-star, who is playing on the 10th team of his career and was drafted more than a year before Harper was born...