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11/03/08 7:15 PM EST

Brewers bring back Cameron for '09

Team picks up center fielder's $10M option for next season

MILWAUKEE -- Mike Cameron will be back in center field at Miller Park in 2009.

Facing a Monday deadline for their decision, the Brewers exercised a $10 million option to bring Cameron back for a second season in Milwaukee. The team could have bought out the option for $750,000 and made Cameron a free agent.

Cameron, a top-flight defensive player who turns 36 in January, missed the first 25 games of 2008 on a league-imposed suspension, then batted .243 with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs in 120 games. He also struck out 142 times, most on the team.

"His outfield play had a lot to do with our improved pitching," general manager Doug Melvin said Monday morning from the GMs' meetings in California. "He had a great clubhouse presence as a veteran and offensively, he did a good job for us.

"The one thing is that we'll still have to look at being right-handed. We're mainly a right-handed-hitting club, but we felt he had way too much value to let him go and not get anything for him."

Cameron would have been a Type B free agent, but the Brewers would have had to offer him arbitration to reap a supplementary Draft pick for Cameron signing elsewhere. The danger is that he would have accepted, then won a salary in arbitration at the same level, or higher than what the Brewers are already paying. His offensive statistics rank Cameron as the No. 6 center fielder in Major League Baseball in 2008, Melvin said.

"When we weighed it all out, he has value," Melvin said.

Cameron's agent, Mike Nicotera, said last week that his client was preparing for a return to Milwaukee unless the team decided otherwise. Cameron himself, speaking after the Brewers were eliminated from postseason play by the Phillies in the National League Division Series, said he wished to return.

"It was a memorable experience to be a part of history here," said Cameron, who helped the Brewers end a 26-year playoff drought. "To walk out of that clubhouse and see the joy in the stands, that's irreplaceable."

Melvin downplayed the notion that Cameron could help the Brewers lure back free-agent left-hander CC Sabathia. Cameron was one of the players with whom Sabathia grew particularly close during his half-season in Milwaukee.

Melvin confirmed that the Brewers submitted a formal contract offer to Sabathia's representatives on Saturday. Different reports have it as a four- or five-year deal for about $100 million, though Melvin would not discuss the specifics.

With Cameron's option exercised and infielder Craig Counsell's declined, the Brewers have one club option left on the table. Closer Salomon Torres, who made a staff-high 71 appearances and notched 26 saves, has a $3.75 million option for next season with a $300,000 buyout. The Brewers have until Nov. 15 to decide on Torres.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.