Rumors have been swirling about outfielder Johnny Damon’s destination since he became a free agent. Many believed Damon would return to the NY Yankees, especially after being a major reason why they won the World Series in 2009. However, the Yankees are suddenly money-conscious and offered him a two-year $14 million contract compared to what he made last year ($13 million for the whole year). There is just no loyalty anymore in sports from both the players and the owners.
So where will Damon end up? Damon has been just as solid in his four years with the Yankees as he was when he was helping the Boston Red Sox win the 2004 World Series. Damon hit .284 with 24 homeruns and a .365 on-base percentage in 2009. Many criticize Damon’s offense as playing at Yankee Stadium with the short porch in right field. They also criticize his defense and throwing arm, along with his age. Despite everything, Damon still produces as evidenced by his clutch hitting and his stats in the World Series: .364 with 2 doubles, 4 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases. As one of the top free agents going into the offseason (and now the top free agent remaining), many believed he would get another lucrative contract. However now that spring training is just a week away, the amount of suitors has dwindled, as has the money being offered.
One potential suitor is the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have had many positive encounters with Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, and would feel comfortable in working on a deal. Damon would fit perfectly in the second spot in the order now that Placido Polanco is gone. He would also take pressure off of rookies Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore at the top of the order and take the pressure off RBI man Miguel Cabrera to hit homeruns in every at-bat. The downside would be the money issue. The Tigers have been slashing payroll (trading young stars Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson) so adding an older outfielder after trading a fan favorite (Granderson) for more money may not make sense.
Atlanta may be another home for Damon. The Braves just offered Damon a one-year contract offer for around $4 million. After trading for outfielder Melky Cabrera, the Braves have Cabrera, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz, and Jordan Schafer (along with top prospect Jason Heyward) in the outfield mix. Adding Damon does not make sense unless they can trade an outfielder (or two) that they have (like maybe Schafer or Cabrera but then it would not make sense to have traded for Cabrera). Damon has spent his entire career in the American League so a change to the National League may not help him. He will not be able to DH anymore and he may not get the playing time he is looking for in Atlanta.
Returning to Oakland may be another option. The A’s have an opening in left field that new prospect Michael Taylor (acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies by way of the Toronto Blue Jays) is hoping to take. Signing Damon would provide a veteran presence in a relatively young lineup that would allow the Tigers to give Taylor a little more seasoning. Then when Taylor is ready, Damon can be traded to a possible contender in July. Would Damon want to return to Oakland? Is Damon willing to enter spring training without a job? He has one week left to make that decision but any team that adds him will be gaining a valuable asset.