Mike Cameron

Mike Cameron well entrenched in the Hall of Very Good

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A Hall of Famer he obviously wasn’t, but Mike Cameron, who announced his retirement Sunday at age 39, might be the game’s most underrated player of the last 20 years.

Cameron nails just about all of the factors that makes a player underrated. He hit for low averages, he struck out a lot, he spent much of his career in pitcher’s parks, he changed teams frequently and he didn’t get the kind of defensive reputation early on that would have let him coast to Gold Glove awards like Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki did.

But when Cameron was at his best, he was one of the top players in his league. Unfortunately, his two best seasons happened to come in Safeco Field in 2001 and in Petco Park in 2006. In 2001, he was the AL’s seventh-best player, according to Baseball-reference’s WAR. In 2006, he was the NL’s 13th best.

Cameron was more about consistency, though. From 1999-2009, he had OPS-pluses between 104-123 every year. He was a pretty exceptional defender right up until the end of that stretch, and he played in 140 games in nine of the 11 seasons.

Unfortunately, because of the kind of hitter he was, Cameron was typically typecast as a No. 6 batter. He never hit even .270 in a full season. The only time he ever led a league in anything was when he fanned 176 times for the Mariners in 2002. He drove in 110 runs in 2001, but his next highest total was 83. In 2004, he managed to drive in just 76 runs despite hitting 30 homers for the Mets.

So, no, Cameron wasn’t a superstar. He wasn’t necessarily the guy a team wanted up with the winning run on second in the bottom of the ninth (though he wasn’t exactly unclutch; he hit slightly better with runners on and with RISP than with the bases empty over the course of his career). He struggled mightily in his four postseasons, hitting .174/.309/.272 with one homer in 92 at-bats.

But as a third banana, he was quite an asset. WAR rates him the 24th best player of the aughts (2000-09), and I wouldn’t quibble with that. He comes up short just looking at his statistical line — he finished his career with a .249 average, 278 homers and 297 steals — but there were just so many pluses outside of that. He earned three Gold Gloves and deserved at least a couple of more, he was a terrific baserunner and he rarely grounded into double plays. There’s no doubt he won more games for his teams with those skills than he lost with the strikeouts.

Jake Diekman will miss at least half of the 2017 season

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Jake Diekman #41 of the Texas Rangers works against the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Rangers reliever Jake Diekman will have surgery on January 25 to help alleviate ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. As a result, the lefty will miss at least half of the 2017 regular season, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Diekman was diagnosed with the illness when he was 11 years old. He has brought awareness to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America with a “Gut It Out” campaign.

Diekman, who turns 30 years old on Saturday, finished the 2016 campaign with a 3.40 ERA and a 59/26 K/BB ratio in 53 innings. He came to the Rangers from the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade on July 31, 2015.

The Rangers and Diekman avoided arbitration last Friday, agreeing to a $2.55 million salary for the 2017 season.

The Blue Jays and Bautista have reached a one year deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during batting practice prior to game five of the American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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It’s been on the verge of happening for a few days now, but now it’s official: the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Bautista have reached a one-year deal with a mutual option. The deal is pending physical. An announcement making the deal official is expected later in week.

The exact financial figures have not been disclosed, but Jon Heyman reports that it will be in excess of the $17.2 million Bautista turned down when he turned down the Jays’ qualifying offer.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.