The Boston Red Sox put in a waiver claim on outfielder Johnny Damon because they genuinely want him to join the club for the final month and a half of the season, not to block him from going to another team, a club source told ESPNBoston.com.
Damon, who can block a trade to Boston, said Monday that he was leaning toward invoking his no-trade clause and staying in Detroit ("My gut and everything else tells me that Detroit's the place for me") rather than returning to Boston, where he was a cult hero as a key member of the 2004 World Series-winning team.
However, Damon told the Boston Globe on Tuesday that he plans on talking to Tigers management about his role for the rest of the season and if he feels he won't get as much playing time, he could decide to go to the Red Sox.
"I think we're still in this," Damon told the Globe of the 62-63 Tigers. "But I've got to know whether they're going to keep playing me or whether they're going to go with the younger guys. If I'm not going to play as much, the decision is a no-brainer."
When a source close to Damon was asked Monday whether Damon was going to Boston, the source said, "I doubt it. But we'll see.''
The 36-year-old outfielder has until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday to decide whether to waive his no-trade to join the Red Sox. If Damon decides he'd be up for it, the Red Sox and Tigers would have to work out a trade, or the Tigers could just let him go to Boston for nothing.
Alternatively, Detroit could also decide to pull Damon back off of waivers and keep him. That would appear to be unlikely, however, considering Damon is due to make $1.8 million for the rest of the season and the Tigers are seemingly out of the playoff race.
"It's probably as tough of a decision for me to make right now as it was for me to leave Boston for New York," Damon said Monday. Damon was referencing his move to the Yankees after the 2005 season, a decision that still strikes a negative chord with many Red Sox fans. "It's something that, fortunately, we have some time to think about."
One line of thinking was that the Red Sox put in a claim on Damon because they wanted to block him from going to the rival Tampa Bay Rays, who are in need of an outfielder and sit 5½ games ahead of the Red Sox in the standings.
Not so, says the club source, though that was obviously a positive side effect.
Rays manager Joe Maddon heaped praise on Damon before Monday's game and made the case for why Damon should stay in Detroit instead of going to Boston.
"If he can't be a Ray, I'd rather he be a Tiger, actually," Maddon said. "Or a Red. Cincinnati's fine. Or a Dodger's fine. But not a Red Sox."
When asked about the possibility of adding Damon, several Red Sox players were excited. In fact, Damon told the Boston Globe on Tuesday that he got calls from David Ortiz and Jason Varitek encouraging him to join them.
"Papi is very excited," Damon told the Globe. "He thinks I could make quite a difference. I love those guys. They know that. But I'm trying to make the best decision for myself and my family."
One reason Damon might be hesitant to return to Boston is the way things ended between the player and club after the 2005 season, when Damon chose to take a bigger contract from the Yankees over an inferior offer from the Red Sox.
"I had a great time playing there," said Damon, who played in Boston from 2002-2005. "I told the team what it would take, in terms of dollars and years -- but it got ugly when it became apparent that re-signing me [after the 2005 season] wasn't a priority."
Damon said the broken relationship with the Boston fans has "absolutely" left a scar on his psyche, and he knows accepting a move back to the Red Sox could fix that, especially if he could help them make a late playoff run.
"If I do this, and we pulled everything together and I could help them get into the postseason, it would change everything again," he said.