Lots of Johnny Damon news lately!
Well, non-news, actually.
Is he heading to the Yankees? Sure doesn't look like it:
- "I do have a number that we're working under," general manager Brian Cashman said last month, after trading away Cabrera in exchange for Javier Vazquez. "We will be at that number, and it will be less than last year. It's as simple as that."The Yankees are approaching that number, though, and so they set a limit: no more than $2 million annually for a left-field upgrade, according to the New York Post. New York hardly seems to be bluffing with Damon. It has All-Star-caliber players at nearly every other position, making left field a secondary priority. And the Yanks know that Damon, now 36 years old, will need both regular rest and regular time as a designated hitter. He does not possess the versatility that manager Joe Girardi craves.
What about the Braves? Mark Bowman sure doesn't think so:
- There's no doubt that Damon could benefit the Braves from an offensive perspective. But unless he's willing to essentially play for free, there's seemingly little reason to believe he'll be prolonging his career in Atlanta this year.From what I can gather, the Braves would become players in the Damon sweepstakes if his price drops to somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-2 million.
In other words, it's not going to happen. Or as one Major League source said, "it would take a miracle" for (the Braves) to sign Damon.
Ah, but perhaps the Mets! Except, no; probably not. Ron Hart:
- For his part, Damon is without a team. He seems to have overplayed his hand with the New York Yankees and the market, due to a bad economy and widening chasm between the upper and lower tier teams, is mostly barren.
On paper, Johnny Damon to the Mets would make sense. When healthy, Beltran is one of the best all around center fielders in the game. But with his knee surgery this off-season, there is a good chance that he will not be ready until June, if at all. Damon is still a good offensive player, and while his defense would be more than a little suspect at Citifield, neither party has better options at this point.
But sometimes arrangements are most quickly made between two desperate parties. Both the Mets and Damon are desperate in a sense and both have needs that are roughly congruent. Damon is a defensive liability, to be sure, but his offense, charisma and big game ability will play well in New York.
The fly in the ointment, however, is Damon's agent Scott Boras. Boras is also Beltran's agent, and he and the Mets are in a rapidly developing cold war over Beltran's decision to get knee surgery without close consultation with the Mets. Major League Baseball is an industry similar to most in that relationships are everything. When a player and an agent are having issues over one player, it will most certainly effect other players.
One should never assume that Scott Boras has overplayed his hand until a contract has been signed. But he and his client must be worried right now, just a little bit. A lot of teams could use Damon, but none of them seem willing to spend more than $2 million. Conservatively, Damon figures to be worth at least $10 million this year. Assuming he actually, you know, plays.
But the Yankees don't need him. The Mets don't, either. Carlos Beltran is supposed to return to the lineup in April. Damon's a lousy center fielder anyway. The Mets have Jason Bay in left field, and they've got Jeff Francoeur in right field. When Beltran comes back, where exactly would Damon play? Unless they're thinking about using him at first base -- which, come to think of it, wouldn't be the worst idea in the world -- I just don't see the point.
The Braves? Well, yeah. They're set in center field with Nate McLouth. In the corners, they've got righty-hitting Matt Diaz and switch-hitting Melky Cabrera, plus super-prospect Jason Heyward. But Heyward's just 20 years old, has played only three games above Class AA, and has lately been dogged by injuries. The Braves seem to be trying in 2010 -- why else would they sign Billy Wagner? -- but right now they're definitely short an outfielder, and Damon's worth at least the $5 million that Bobby Abreu got from the Angels last year.
But that was a one-year deal. I don't know if Damon's willing to accept a one-year deal. If he wants to play, he might not have a choice. Strange times ...