Yankees add Damon to potent lineup

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees grabbed center fielder
Johnny Damon away from the rival Boston Red Sox, reaching a
preliminary agreement Tuesday night on a $52 million, four-year

Details of the deal were still being negotiated and Damon must
pass a physical, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity
because negotiations were not yet final.

Damon's contract with the Yankees includes a partial no-trade clause, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported.

Moving from Fenway Park to Yankee Stadium will mean a change of
style and scenery for the long-haired, bearded Damon -- a fan
favorite in Boston for his scrappy play and scruffy look. But New
York owner George Steinbrenner bans beards and long hair.

"Sad to say bye to some of the greatest fans in the world.
Unfortunately they had to see this day, but it's time for me to
move forward," Damon told WBZ television in Boston. "They were
coming after me aggressively. We know George Steinbrenner's

"He always wants to have the best players, and I think he
showed that tonight. He and Brian Cashman came after me hard," he
said, referring to New York's general manager.

Damon fills a double void for the Yankees, giving them a speedy
center fielder who can cover ground and a leadoff hitter to top a
potent lineup that also includes Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, AL
MVP Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi.

Bernie Williams' defense declined significantly over the past
four seasons, although he is expected to remain with the Yankees as
a reserve. And while Damon's arm is not much better, the two-time
All-Star does cover a lot of ground, which is important in Yankee

Williams is expected to complete a 1 year, $1.5 million deal with the Yankees, where will be a role player, filling in part-time, Olney reports.

Agent Scott Boras had been seeking a seven-year contract for
Damon. The offer Damon accepted was essentially the same as the
deal Matsui agreed to with the Yankees last month.

Damon said Boston did not attempt to match New York's offer. Red
Sox owner John Henry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that
Damon did not go back to the team to give it a chance to top the
Yankees' offer.

"A good leadoff hitter is tough to find, and I think that New
York just found the best leadoff hitter in the game," he told WBZ.

Damon is the first star player to switch sides in the Red
Sox-Yankees rivalry over the past few years, although role players
such as John Olerud, Alan Embree, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Myers
have done it.

"We were notified at 11:55 tonight that Damon had accepted an
offer from the Yankees," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said in
an e-mail to The Associated Press.

New York, baseball's first team with a $200 million payroll last
season, had a relatively quiet offseason until now. The Yankees,
eliminated by the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of the AL
playoffs, were overshadowed by the splashy Mets, who acquired
slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado from the Florida Marlins and
signed free-agent closer Billy Wagner to a $43 million, four-year

Damon, who turned 32 last month, led Boston with a .316 batting
average. He had 197 hits and scored 117 runs.

When Myers finalized his contract with the Yankees last week, he
gushed about the prospect of having Damon in New York's lineup.

"I would put the over/under on Damon scoring 125, and I'd take
the over any day of the week," Myers said. "I think the fans
would absolutely love him there, just his hustle and his passion
for the game, the way he goes about his business. I think he'd fit
in great in the clubhouse, even though I don't know what the
clubhouse is."

Earlier in the day, the Yankees closed in on a $2 million, one-year contract with reliever Octavio Dotel, who
is recovering from elbow surgery.

Dotel's agent, Dan Horwits, said he spoke by phone with Cashman several times Tuesday in an attempt to work out the final details.

"It's close to being done, but it's not done yet," Horwits said. "We're still going back and forth just to try to finish up some loose ends. Assuming we can do that, he'll be a Yankee. But he's not a Yankee yet."

Dotel was already talking like he's ready to sign.

"I feel very happy with this contract," Dotel said. "This
team has a lot of tradition, and it pleases me to know that they
want me to pitch for them."

Dotel would get a $250,000 bonus if added to the 25-man active
roster and could earn $3 million more in performance bonuses based
on games. His deal contains an additional $2.5 million in bonuses
based on games finished, in case he is traded to another team.

He had 36 saves for Houston and Oakland in 2004 but struggled
last season with Oakland, going 1-2 with seven saves and a 3.52 ERA
before he went on the disabled list May 20. From April 30 to May
11, he blew four saves in five outings.

Dotel had reconstructive elbow surgery June 6 to repair a torn
ligament. He hopes to be pitching by midseason.

"What I do know is that it's going to help me to go back to
what I like and that is to be a closer," he said.

With the Yankees, he would join several newcomers in the bullpen:
right-hander Kyle Farnsworth and left-handers Ron Villone and
Myers. New York has struggled to find middle-inning pitchers in
recent years, and setup man Tom Gordon left to become the
Philadelphia Phillies' closer.

Several teams had sought Dotel, including the crosstown Mets.

New York allowed left-hander Wayne Franklin to become a free
agent, failing to offer a 2006 contract by the midnight EST
deadline. The Yankees offered contracts to pitchers Shawn Chacon
and Aaron Small, who are eligible for salary arbitration.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.