Former Cub Corey Patterson has come a long way, and not in the direction any player wants to see his career go.
Since the Cubs traded Patterson to Baltimore in January, 2006, he's had seasons of .276 and .269, with OPS+ numbers of 94 and 80, OBPs of .314 and .304, and a combined 159 strikeouts and 42 walks.
On Friday, Baseball Prospectus (subscription) pointed out that as recently as 2000, Baseball America had this to say about Eric Patterson's older brother:
(Corey) Patterson offers the best combination of athleticism and baseball skills of any prospect in the game. He's the best hitter, the faster runner and the top outfield defender in the organization. His other two tools, power and arm strength, are both above-average. His top-of-the-line speed is probably his most impressive physical asset… Patterson has more than held his own while being rushed through the minors… He has batted .195 against left-handers as a pro. He needs to tighten his plate discipline, and his ability to drive pitches that are out of the strike zone actually hampers his ability to draw walks… Scouts believe Patterson can correct all of those flaws with more experience. They're understandable, considering his age and how much he has been pushed.
Marc Nomandin goes on to trace Patterson's course through the intervening years, during which his flaws were not corrected. We still see the continued lack of plate discipline. The spotty power when Patterson pulls the ball. The complete lack of power when hitting to the opposite field. The "alarming" frequency with which he hits pop ups.
Patterson doesn't have much appeal left when it comes to considering him for a starting job. He's a fine defender, one of the best at his position, but every season you run him out in the lineup you chance seeing something like this 2007 campaign. At best, you're going to see another 2006, which is fine for many teams as long as he can steal bases effectively and play well above-average defense in center, but at this stage he's no sure bet to do these things consistently. Teams who still need another outfielder would be served best by locking up Patterson to a one-year deal with incentives and maybe a club option and using him as a fourth outfielder, which is a far fall from the days when he was a top prospect.
-- Earlier this week, Dave O'Brien, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, suggested that Georgia native Patterson might be a candidate for the Braves' centerfield job, a position left open by the departure of free agent Andruw Jones.
On Friday, however, O'Brien spoke to Oakland's Mark Kotsay and, per the player, a trade between the A's and Braves is imminent. In other words, Corey Patterson will still be looking for a team.
Another centerfielder, Mike Cameron, has found his team: the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers and Cameron, who will be suspended for the first 25 games of '08 after he tested positive for use of a banned stimulant, agreed Friday on a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.
This is bad news for the Cubs in a couple respects. First, Cameron is a talented player. Second, his signing will allow the Brewers to move the big hitting but defensively inferior Bill Hall back to the infield, where he will take over for Ryan Braun at third. Braun, a defensively inferior third baseman--25 errors and a fielding percentage of .895(!!!) in '07--will then be able to move to left.
That's a lot of positives to net with a single free-agent signing.