- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is thinking about a possible upgrade in the outfield for the 2011 season, and he could make a transaction during the winter meetings.
The notion that the Red Sox would lose interest in outfielder Carl Crawford simply because their recent acquisition of slugging first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez dwindled the bank account simply isn’t true. Even though Gonzalez is a member of the Red Sox, he did not sign an extension yet, so Epstein has some wiggle room. The Red Sox were also interested in Jayson Werth before he signed with the Nationals.
Epstein said Monday that he would explore the possibility of adding an outfielder, so the position could be in flux. Incumbent outfielder Mike Cameron, who missed most of last season with a torn abdominal muscle, acknowledged recently that if the Red Sox signed another outfielder he would find himself on the bench.
“The Red Sox have the ability, the luxury of going and getting who they feel like they think is going to help them ball,” the 37-year-old Cameron said. “My situation, I’m not a first-year player, I know what takes place. I also understand I’m under contract and I also understand that as my career is winding down that they’re going to make sure they have proper guys who can possibly play.
“If they got somebody, or whatever it may be, obviously they don’t have to come to me and say anything. I guess, out of respect because I’ve been playing so long, they’ll sit down with me and tell me what the plans are and we’ll move forward after that. The good thing is I’m still under contract. We’ll see how it plays out, and see where I shape up as far as being on the 25-man roster.”
Cameron is scheduled to make $7.25 million in the final year of a two-year contract.
It’s not a lock that the Red Sox add an outfielder. Epstein indicated that if the deal wasn’t right, he’d be comfortable heading into the season with their current core of outfielders: Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew and a still-developing Ryan Kalish.
“There’s been a lot of talk about our outfield and we’ve talked about it internally,” Epstein said. “I feel like if we brought back the same group, we’d be OK.”
Still, Epstein explained there is some benefit to bringing the right player into the mix for a couple of reasons.
“It would allow us some time for some of our outfielders development paths to take hold, provide more depth for guys who are coming off injury, and might provide a better mix against right or lefthanded pitching,” he said.
The GM admitted that if he added an outfielder, it could be more of a complementary piece than a big splash.
Cameron was limited to only 48 games in 2010, hitting .259 with four homers and 15 RBI. He finally decided to shut it down and had surgery in September to repair the damage in his abdominal area. His rehab is going well and he says he’ll be ready for spring training.
“Everything’s good. It’s long and slow,” he said. “I’m just trying to get to a point where everything is going in motion.”
Cameron knows once January rolls around he’ll be healthy and well rested and will be able to begin to ramp up his offseason routine in preparation for spring training.
“I’m getting stronger,” he said. “Everything is getting back to normal. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m pretty close to it.”
Prior to signing with the Red Sox, Cameron made it clear he wanted to be the team’s every day center fielder. He still hopes that can happen, but he also realizes that, when healthy, his role could change in 2011 if Epstein acquires another outfielder or chooses to put Ellsbury in center.
At this point, Cameron’s only focus is spring training.
“I know I have to go out and play ball and play well,” he said. “It always works out, one way or the other. I’m looking at the positive side. I always look for the positive.”
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has always been a big fan of Cameron as a player and a person, hopes to see him in the outfield every day next season.
"We signed Cam to play," Francona said. "He had a miserable year health wise last year. From all accounts, he's working hard and he's doing really well. So, I guess I can see Cam playing every day. Who knows. That's why I don't need to get too far ahead of myself. I think it's easy to forget that a guy's a good player when he's injured and out for a while. I think we still view him that way."