Updated 12:08 p.m. (See below): How badly does Johnny Damon want to return to the Yankees? If we’re to believe what he tells the press, he prefers New York, but that won’t stop him from listening to other offers.
“Still, every time i’ve been a free agent, I’ve ended up switching teams,” he said in November. “It’s the nature of the beast. If people are interested, I’m going to listen.”
Any player who employs Scott Boras as an agent will certainly look around for the best possible offer. But at 36 years old, with declining defense and power that is suited only to Yankee Stadium, Damon might not find other teams willing to offer much more than the Yankees.
Even if he does, though, will Damon find a more favorable situation? If he returns to the Yankees he’ll again play a prominent part in the offense, playing left field and filling in at DH. He’ll slot back into his familiar No. 2 hole, and he’ll have the short porch as a target. But most of all, he’ll be on a guaranteed contender. He won’t get that guarantee if he signs with, say, the Giants or White Sox.
Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record writes on this subject in his column today. The Yankees don’t appear flexible on their one-year offer, and Damon might find it the best one in the end. Not just for financials, but for the opportunity the Yankees present.
It’s one year, take it or leave it. One year on a club that may be even better than the one that rolled over the entire industry. One year and $10 million with a chance to defend a world championship in a ballpark that’s built for Damon’s upper-cut swing.
Somewhere in Damon’s consciousness, he must know that’s a tempting proposition. Maybe he could land with the Giants for a two-year contract (even though they say they have no interest). Maybe Damon could lure the Mets into a discussion. Maybe he could even get the Red Sox to pick up the phone.
But none of these are realistic scenarios. It’s a lean market for a player of Damon’s unique, Yankee-centric skills. The only question is how far he and Boras are willing to push their argument. How long will Damon consider market-value more important than his emotional ties to the Yankees.
We might soon find out how Damon really feels. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, “The Yankees are in the process of negotiating with Johnny Damon’s camp.” Clearly, they’re using the Granderson acquisition as leverage, and are probably threatening another acquisition — possibly Mike Cameron, possibly Matt Holliday — to replace Damon. As Buster continues, “The Yankees intend to use market forces to pressure Damon to make a decision quickly.”
Adding Damon, at one year, seems like a perfect move. The Yankees would retain a player who best fits with their team, and Damon would get a shot to repeat as a champion. The question now is of what’s most important to Damon. Does he want the most possible money and security? Or does he want to play for a guaranteed contender? We might find out soon.
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By Ben: Two updates of note: Ken Davidoff says that the Yankees are expected to resign Hideki Matsui, and Joel Sherman says that the Yanks and Damon aren’t actively negotiated. “No quick resolution is anticipated,” The Post writer says.
It’s certainly possible for the Yanks to bring back both Damon and Matsui on short-term deals, and signing one doesn’t preclude the return of the other. That move would certainly make Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner (or both) expendable but works against yesterday’s discussion on the youth movement. Still, having a true DH is far better than keeping the slot open as a way to rest the regulars on a rotation.