Johnny Damon Rumors

Johnny Damon Talks Free Agency, Yankees, Tigers

The 2012 regular season officially starts two weeks from today when the Mariners and Athletics meet in Tokyo, but Johnny Damon still doesn't have a job. He spoke to Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio yesterday to discuss his current situation…

"I know I've proven a lot, and if the right opportunity comes up, I'll take it," said Damon. "I think the biggest thing holding me back right now, is what if I do take a backup job somewhere, what if somebody gets hurt somewhere else where I would probably prefer to be at? That's why I'm taking my time."

"It's difficult, because I feel like I had pretty good year last year," he added. "From a stat standpoint, better than more than half the players out there."

Damon was linked to the Orioles earlier this month, but GM Dan Duquette quickly shot that down. Another AL East team and one of the 38-year-old's former employers – the Yankees – were in the market for a DH-type earlier this offseason before settling on Raul Ibanez. As Damon said, he was willing to return to New York and money wasn't an obstacle…

"Obviously, at this point of my career, I want to have some say in who I can and can't play with," he said. "I just wanted to make sure [GM Brian Cashman] knew it wasn't about money. Pay me whatever, and I'll try to help you win a championship."

The Tigers also have some appeal to Damon, who played in Detroit in 2010. They don't have a clearly defined DH at the moment if they stick to the plan of playing Miguel Cabrera at third and Prince Fielder at first, so on the surface there appears to be a fit. That's not necessarily the case though.

"I think the biggest thing is just the number of bodies, and possibly their loyalty to Magglio Ordonez if they were going to bring in a DH," said Damon.

Damon hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 homers and 19 steals in 647 plate appearances for the Rays last year, though he's only played 352 1/3 innings in the outfield since leaving the Yankees after 2009. He's also 277 hits away from 3,000 for his career, which could be a factor in his decision to hold out for an everyday job rather than accept a platoon or bench role.


Duquette: Damon Deal Unlikely

FRIDAY: Duquette told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com "maybe" when asked if Damon was a possibility. Another Orioles person said "not yet" (Twitter link).

THURSDAY: Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, that he doesn't expect to sign Johnny Damon (Twitter link). Even though the free agent continues to be linked to the Orioles, Duquette doesn't anticipate a deal.

"I don't think so. I already signed Johnny Damon when he was 28," Duquette said in reference to Damon's deal with the Red Sox.

Damon hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 homers and 29 doubles in 582 plate appearances for the Rays in 2011. He was Tampa Bay's primary DH last year, but maintains he could still play the field if necessary. Agent Scott Boras recently suggested the market for his client will pick up within a few weeks.

I'm sure there's a lot of clubs that are looking at youth, and by the time spring training ends they may be looking at it differently," Boras told MLBTR's Tim Dierkes last week.


AL East Notes: Duquette, Damon, Martin

Wei-Ying Chen, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Pena obtained the biggest free agent contracts handed out by AL East teams this offseason, not counting the Yankees’ extended agreement with C.C. Sabathia. Here’s the latest on the division… 

  • Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette told Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe that he’s operating differently in Baltimore than he did as Boston’s GM. “I have a fresh start in Baltimore,’’ he said. “I believe I could do a better job in one-on-one communication in a couple of different areas of the job. 
  • Ian Browne of MLB.com checks in with Ben Cherington, who’s now wrapping up his first offseason as Boston’s GM. Though Cherington says he’s far from unflappable, his boss, Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino, says he’s off to a “flying start.”
  • The Orioles haven’t ruled out Johnny Damon, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Orioles have switch-hitting DH Wilson Betemit in place, but they could shift him to third at times or play Damon in left if their interest in the free agent is serious. 
  • Yankees catcher Russell Martin told Heyman that he was pleased to see the Cardinals recognize the value of Yadier Molina’s all-around game with a $75MM deal (Twitter link). "He kind of set the bar," Martin said.


Boras On Edwin Jackson, Damon, Mike Gonzalez

I had a chance to catch up with super agent and MLBTR reader Scott Boras after today's baseball analytics panel at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston.  A few highlights:

  • Asked what led Edwin Jackson to take a one-year deal with the Nationals, Boras said, "In Edwin's case, it was choice.  We had multiyear deals, a number of them.  We really felt that it was best for him, at his age, to be with a particular team at a particular time and then go into the free agent market next year."  I was curious as to whether Boras thought Jackson would improve his market position with a better 2012 performance, and the agent explained, "Our metrics, our analysis, we felt that his evolution as a pitcher is coming.  I think he was developing certain pitches as his season went on.  We really felt it was best for him to do a one-year contract rather than a three-year deal."  
  • Speaking of the agency's analytical tools, Boras has internal metrics he does not share with teams in negotiations, he noted during the panel.  These analytics instead help determine how the agency values the player as a starting point.  Sabermetric guru and Red Sox employee Bill James jumped in to question Boras on what he does when a GM places a significantly higher value on a player than Boras does, "other than celebrate."  The agent replied that he will, for the most part, guard against poor fits for his clients, unless the client dictates his destination due to family concerns.
  • Johnny Damon is "home, working out, waiting for the right team," Boras told me.  I asked if Damon was expected a Major League deal, and Boras said, "Johnny Damon was about the third-best DH in the AL.  I'm sure there's a lot of clubs that are looking at youth, and by the time spring training ends they may be looking at it differently."
  • Lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez is "in play with a lot of teams right now," according to Boras.  He elaborated, "A lot of it has to do with situational needs and clubs. In these markets, sometimes late doesn't mean demand, it just means choice."

West Links: Giants, Pudge, Abreu, Leach

Here's the latest from baseball's two West divisions…

  • The Giants are not in the market for outfielders such as Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Bobby Abreu according to Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). They feel the lineup is too lefty-heavy as it is, and defense is a concern as well.
  • Ivan Rodriguez has fielded a few inquiries according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter), including one from the Diamondbacks. Pudge seeks a job with "real playing time," however.
  • Angels manager Mike Scioscia told MLB.com that he believes he can find regular playing time for Abreu, and that the veteran hitter won't be a distraction after saying he wanted to be traded.
  • The Dodgers have signed left-hander Brent Leach, reports Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (on Twitter). The 29-year-old reliever appeared in 38 games for the Dodgers in 2009 (5.75 ERA), but spent last season in Japan.

Johnny Damon No Longer Considering Yankees

The Yankees are reportedly in "extensive" talks with Raul Ibanez about their DH job, but another option is no longer on the table. Johnny Damon told George A. King III and Joel Sherman of The New York Post that both he and the team are no longer considering a second tour of duty in New York.

"We both are looking at other options now,'' said Damon, adding that it's "unfortunate."

GM Brian Cashman acknowledged that the two sides spoke about a possible reunion, saying: "He called and I told him the truth. He is not the No. 1 option if and when I turn to DH options."

Earlier today we heard that even after the A.J. Burnett trade, the Yankees only have enough money to sign Eric Chavez or a left-handed DH, not both. Team executives will meet next week to reconsider the budget once the trade is made official, however. More than 58% of nearly 12,000 MLBTR readers prefer either Ibanez or Vladimir Guerrero to Damon according to the results of this morning's poll.


Yankees Notes: Burnett, Chavez, DH, Kuroda

The Yankees agreed to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates yesterday, two days before their pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training. With less than 24 hours officially remaining in their offseason, let's round up the latest news surrounding the team…

  • Burnett will take his physical tomorrow and final approval of the trade from the commissioner's office is likely to come Monday afternoon, reports Erik Boland of Newsday (on Twitter).
  • Even after the Burnett trade, the Yankees have room in the budget for Eric Chavez or a left-handed DH but not both, according to Joel Sherman of The New York Post (Twitter links). Team executives plan to meet after the trade becomes official to discuss whether room can be made for both.
  • The Yankees still prefer Raul Ibanez to Johnny Damon because he's better against right-handed pitchers and on defense, but Damon is not entirely off the board according to Sherman (on Twitter). MLBTR readers were split pretty evenly between those two (and Vladimir Guerrero) in this morning's poll about the club's DH spot.
  • Hiroki Kuroda reported to camp today and spoke to reporters (including Chad Jennings of The Journal News) about his decision to stay with the Dodgers at the trade deadline last year. The 37-year-old right-hander also wouldn't commit to any plans beyond this season.
  • Joe Brescia of The New York Times chatted briefly with Gene Michael, the team's former GM and current advisor to Brian Cashman. He talked about the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade, the difference between how the Yankees are run now compared to George Steinbrenner's heyday, and more.

Poll: The Yankees’ Next DH

The Yankees freed up some money yesterday by agreeing to trade A.J. Burnett to the Pirates for two minor leaguers and a total of $13MM in salary relief. They’ll save $5MM in 2012 and $8MM in 2013. Reports indicate that they’re expected to sign both Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez once the trade becomes official.

Chavez will fill out the bench like last year, but Ibanez would step in as the left-handed half of a DH platoon with Andruw Jones. Even though Spring Training is right around the corner, there is no shortage of DH-type bats on the open market as our Free Agent Tracker shows. If the Yankees were to decide to pass on Ibanez, they could always turn to Vladimir Guerrero or former Yankees Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Guerrero is a right-handed hitter, however. They also signed Russell Branyan to a minor league contract recently.

Given Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch and the presence of Jones, it makes sense for the Yankees to pursue a left-handed bat. Ibanez hit .245/.289/.419 overall last year but .256/.307/.440 against righties, which is good but not great. Damon (.255/.314/.401) and Matsui (.242/.318/.336) weren’t any better against righties, and in fact Guerrero outperformed all three of those guys against northpaws (.291/.315/.428). The Yankees have no shortage of DH options, but which one is the best?



Johnny Damon Talks Free Agency

Johnny Damon told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that he considers the Yankees a “perfect fit” for his services given their need for a left-handed hitting DH. The Yankees don’t hold any grudges over the way Damon’s first stint in New York ended, but they haven’t offered him a contract this offseason, and they don’t seem likely to make final decisions on their DH opening until the A.J. Burnett intrigue ends.

Despite rumblings that Damon is altering his offensive approach now that he’s just 277 hits away from the 3,000 hit milestone, he says he's not changing as a player as he nears personal accomplishments. 

“It's never been a driving force for me,” he told Heyman. “I always had the intention of being a good teammate."

Damon hit .261/.326/.418 with 16 homers and 29 doubles in 582 plate appearances in 2011. He was Tampa Bay's primary DH last year, but maintains he could still play the field if necessary. I examined Damon's free agent stock in November, concluding that another modest one-year deal is likely. The Scott Boras client appeared to be seeking a $5MM deal about a month ago.


Quick Hits: Damon, Guillen, Jackson

Here are a few odd items of note as Tuesday becomes Wednesday …

  • Executives from three teams believe Johnny Damon has altered his patient plate approach in his quest to collect 3,000 career hits, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Damon is believed to be intent on reaching 3K to increase his odds of reaching the Hall of Fame, which is turning off potential suitors, according to Sherman. The outfielder/DH denies this.
  • Outfielder Jose Guillen, who did not play last season, wants to return in 2012, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com (Spanish link). Guillen, 35, last appeared in the Majors in 2010 with the Giants.
  • The one-year, $11MM contract the Nationals gave to Edwin Jackson seems more advantageous under the new CBA than it did at first glance, writes Amanda Comak of the Washington Times.
  • If the Mets are not in better financial shape by next offseason, Commissioner Bud Selig must take action, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Doing so would be difficult for Selig, writes Rosenthal, as Wilpon is a long-tenured and well-respected owner.
  • For a look at how each first-year GM fared this offseason, check out this writeup by John Schlegel of MLB.com.