Stymied thus far in their quest to find a long-term answer in center field, the Nationals today came up with what appears to be a short-term solution: Mike Cameron.
The Nationals agreed to terms with the veteran outfielder on a minor-league contract, according to a source familiar with the deal. Cameron, who turns 39 next month, isn't guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster. If he does, he won't be counted on to be an everyday player, but he could wind up platooning in center field with a left-handed hitter (perhaps Roger Bernadina or Rick Ankiel) or coming off the bench.
Either way, the Cameron signing seems to indicate the Nationals intend to plug their hole in center field with stop-gaps for now, keeping the position open for whenever top prospect Bryce Harper is deemed big-league ready. Once that happens, Harper could take over in right field, with Jayson Werth sliding over to center field.
Once one of the premier center fielders in baseball, Cameron is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner who has struggled both to stay healthy and productive in recent seasons. He signed a two-year, 15.5 million contract with the Red Sox prior to 2010 but hit just .219 with seven homers and a .285 on-base percentage in 81 total games in Boston the last two years.
He wound up getting traded to the Marlins, where he hit .238 with six homers and a .331 on-base percentage in 45 games before getting released in September following a verbal altercation with a flight attendant aboard the club's charter plane.
Considered a strong clubhouse presence by those who have played with him over the years, Cameron owns a career .249 average, 278 homers and a .338 on-base percentage in 17 seasons with eight teams: the White Sox, Reds, Mariners, Mets, Padres, Brewers, Red Sox and Marlins.
Cameron received a 25-game suspension from Major League Baseball in 2007 after a second positive test for a banned stimulant.