A trade of Damon makes perfect sense

Chalk up another one for Pettitte
Yankee Stadium, now with less facepaint

Much to the chagrin of the woman sitting in front of me at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, I am no fan of Johnny Damon. As the Yanks’ lead-off hitter – and someone tell me why he still leads off – strolled to the plate, my dad and I noted Damon’s decline and his slow bat speed.

While the lady in front of me with her Number 18 t-shirt on kept glaring back at me and loudly commented, “I guess Damon can still play” while shooting me a dirty look a few innings later when he homered, the fact is that Johnny Damon is an albatross around the Yankees’ necked.

In December of 2005, the Yanks signed Damon to a four-year, $52-million deal. While the Red Sox declined to match that deal, the first season of the contract made the Yanks looked great. For $13 million, the Yanks got a centerfielder with a bad arm but good range who could hit for power and average and steal bases.

This year, it all came crashing down. Damon, hot of late, is hitting just .251 but with a respectable .353 OBP. However, he’s slugging just .356, and he has followed up his 2006 extra-base hit total of 64 with just 23 this season. In the field, he’s a disaster. His arm is worse than ever, and he has officially lost the starting centerfield job to Melky Cabrera, a far superior defender.

Now, the Yanks are facing a choice. They have a lot of players playing good baseball. Shelley Duncan is swinging a hot bat; Andy Phillips has been great of late; and Melky Cabrera has emerged as the heart and soul of the young players on the team. With Jason Giambi due for a return, someone’s got to go from the starting lineup.

As Joe Torre, the Yankees manager who seems to have been the victim of a vote of no-confidence from the Front Office, tends to favor his Experienced Veterans, I fear that Melky, much to the detriment of the offense and defense, will be the odd man out. That is, unless the Yanks bench Johnny Damon.

Now, recently a rumor emerged that Damon was on the trading block. As much as the Proctor trade was designed to protect the Yanks from Torre while improving the team, a Damon trade could do the same thing. And obviously, Johnny Damon, who didn’t play yesterday much to the surprise of himself, isn’t too happy about that. He says he wants to play and win in New York. He says he wasn’t sure why he was the odd man out yesterday.

But if I’m the Yankees and some team wants Johnny Damon, I trade him in a heartbeat. There’s no doubt that, with $26 million left on his contract, he’ll clear waivers. With Giambi in the DH slot and Melky firmly entrenched in center, Damon’s spot on this team would be a pinch runner, and $13 million for a pinch runner is a hefty sum.

So two days ago, I (probably misguidedly) advocated trading current centerfielder. Today, I’m advocating for trading the former centerfielder. If the deal arrives, do it.

Chalk up another one for Pettitte
Yankee Stadium, now with less facepaint
  • Mike

    I’ve gotta say, a Damon to Atlanta deal makes a ton of sense. The Yanks would have to pick up a nice chunk of Damon’s salary, but he’d be a half-decent replacement for Andruw once he bolts.

    Maybe Damon, Farnsworth & $15M to Atlanta for Brayan Pena and Bob Wickman?

  • C-Note

    Agree with ALL of your points BeN K –

    NO place on this team for him right now, even if Melky or one of the other othfielders got hurt you’d have to bring someone up from AAA(christinason, Garnder, Thompson) to play becasue DAMON simply can not play the field anymore

    I would eat some salery and try to send him to one of the 70 NL teams that are still in it ( i don’t wanna see him in the AL, I remember what he did to the SOx during the Boston Massacre II, wouldn’t wanna see him come back to bite us in the ass)

    And SHELLY, holy god, GENE MICHAEL and thousands of blogger were right, you should been in the show months ago…

  • C-Note

    I posted this under the DOTF line, but I think that has gone dead- this has nothing to do with DAMON but could be an important question come saturday-

    HEY R.A.B. fellas,

    Since Joba looks to make the SHOW possibly this weekend who’s got next???

    There was a very interesting discussion about this around 3 weeks ago on this site…

    things that were generally thought were that we didn’t want the next WATCH to last only a matter of weeks(IAN KENNEDY or BRETT GARDNER might be Sept 1st call ups) and no one wanted a WATCH that could last for 5 years (BETANCES, MONTERO, HEREDIA) there was also a discussion about position player vs pitcher

    some excellent points were made in that perhaps to choose someone who looks like a mid 08? call up (HORNE, WHELAN… even a Robertson could move fast) and then at that point get a lay of the land to see who would be the next HIGH LEVEL HIGH CEILING WATCH (Action Jackson, Tabata, maybe Kontos if he looks like he’s putting it together… perhaps one of this years draftees, maybe one of the 10 guys we have coming off of TJ surgery{if Christian Garcia rehab continues going well he could move up very quickly next year})

    It’s a tough choice because of course you want the WATCH guy to be someone you can get really excited about… after Joba technically the #1 prospect in the organization is TABATA, but as a teenage is his ETA 09? or more like 10??

    Excellent choices with HUGHES & JoBA- would be so exciting if they both pitched on Saturday

    I’m sure you fellas will make a good choice

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

    We’ll address the next Watch as soon as Joba hits the Bronx. Heredia’s probably too far away, but we’ll figure it out soon.

  • C-Note


    Nice to read you backing away from the Melky for Gange dealio… I respect that you don’t see big upside to Melky(i do, but time will tell, who knows) but that we have no one to play CF, mostly because Damon is sucking so bad

  • Kyle

    Phillie needs an outfielder now with Victorino and Coste hurt and Rowand possible leaving after the season. Their fans will love Damons all out style of play. Maybe we could extract something decent from them in return for Damon, maybe somebody like Fabio Castro, Josh Outman or maybe Carlos Carrasco if we threw in a lot of money

  • The Scout

    There was/is a similar exchange about Damon going on at the “Was Watching” site today. I’d be surprised if a deal were made in-season, but certainly not afterwards. I think Melky is the correct CF option for this team. It’s less clear he’s ready to be a lead-off hitter, which likely means Jeter would have to move back into that slot.

    Damon’s recent improvement will likely lead Torre to favor keeping him in the line-up on a semi-regular basis. One option will be a rotation among CF/LF/DH with Damon, Cabrera, Matsui, and (when he returns) Giambi, with Matsui playing nearly every day but shifting between LF and CF. I’m not thrilled by this. Giambi is a human traffic am on the basis and really slows the team down. And it should be noted that the team has vaulted to the top of the league in runs scored without him.

  • DKA

    If he’s swinging a hot bat, you keep him (Damon) at DH and use Shelley to spell both him and the corner outfielders.

    I love Shelley too, but his role shouldn’t be any bigger than Shane Spencer’s was. Keep him in the big leagues, but let’s see if he can handle more playing time next year. He’s still a 27 year-old rookie.

    To me, the solution is to DFA Cairo and sit Giambi’s fat butt on the bench as a pinch-hitter the rest of the season.

    I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to reconfigure the bullpen….

  • http://jeteupthemiddle.blogspot.com Jeteupthemiddle

    I would be shocked if both Damon and Farnsworth weren’t already on waivers waiting to be cleared.

    As far as trading Damon, I am not opposed to it, but I think in order to do it midseason, then it has to be a pretty good offer…and not something you would exert too much energy toward.

    Meaning, that if he clears waivers and another team offers something good for him, then by all means take it, but I wouldn’t actively be looking for the deal…in 2007 at least.

    During the offseason (also depending on how Melky finishes up the season…I have already gone in depth about Melky in another thread on the blog) if the Yankees think they can safely insert Melky as the starting center fielder in 2008 (he is, afterall, no Bubba Crosby) then by all means actively search for a trading partner.

  • Kyle

    If you dont trade Damon you can get some kind of rotation going like this (assuming a 7 game week)
    Damon plays 2 games in CF, one in LF, one at DH
    Cabrera plays 5 games in CF
    Giambi plays 5 games at DH
    Matsui plays 5 games in LF
    Duncan plays 1 game at DH, 2 at first, 1 in left
    Andy Phillips plays 5 games at 1st

    That way everyone gets between 4 and 5 games a week, that way everyone can stay fresh as well as staying sharp for the playoff run. Hopefully thats no too complicated for Torre to implement

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

    Waaaay too complicated, Kyle, and not nearly friendly enough towards veterans.

    I like it, though.

  • http://jeteupthemiddle.blogspot.com Jeteupthemiddle

    I know that Shelley Duncan has been exciting, but is he really a “plays 4 times a week” kind of player?

    I would bet it is more likely he is a 2 maybe 3 times a week type of player.

  • http://yankeesfuture.blogspot.com/ Pablo Zevallos

    Possible solutions to the logjam:

    1. Revive Giambi to LAA talks…eat some salary and see if that works
    2. Put Damon on waivers…see what happens (Philly? Atlanta? Chicago?)
    3. Call up an OF from AAA–like a Gardner or a Christian

    End of story!