Johnny Damon finds himself in quite a pickle this off-season. His preferred team, the Yankees, don’t want to overpay, and his agent, Scott Boras, has a reputation for getting teams to overpay. It’s led to a standoff where Boras doesn’t want to even hear the Yankees’ two-year offers. If the Yankees don’t raise their bid to three years, $39 million, it appears, Damon and Boras will seek that deal from another team. They tried to get some leverage today with a quote in the NY Post.
“I am going to start looking around. Teams are getting better and there are teams interested,” Damon told The Post yesterday. “I can’t wait forever and I am sure [the Yankees] are trying to figure things out. I have to be ready.”
This maneuver, however, might play into the Yankees’ hands. Damon can start looking around, but I don’t see a team that will come close to a three year offer, even for $30 million. Chances are, after looking around the rest of the league (as if they haven’t done that already), they’ll find that the Yankees offer the best situation. I’ve thought this all winter, and it’s why I think that Damon will eventually sign a two-year contract with the Yanks.
Three issues hurt Damon’s chances of signing with another team for more than the Yankees will offer. First is how his bat plays at Yankee Stadium. Perhaps Damon finds another team with a lefty-friendly stadium, but chances are it won’t be as friendly to him as Yankee Stadium. In other words, while the chances of him replicating his 2009 in 2010 are remote, even with the Yankees, the chances become even more remote with another team. This affects a team like the Giants, which has an outfield opening, but probably not for Damon.
The second issue is of available resources. In order to sign Damon, a team needs both money and a roster spot. The White Sox, for example, have been mentioned as a potential Damon suitor. With Alex Rios, Andruw Jones, Carlos Quentin, and now Juan Pierre in the fold, it doesn’t appear they have room for him on the roster, never mind the payroll. Texas, with ownership in transition, probably can’t afford Damon.
Finally, Damon’s defense has become a liability. This might not hurt him with an AL team, but it might make it tougher for an NL team to justify such a large contract. Perhaps the Cardinals would be interested if Matt Holliday signs elsewhere. Maybe the Brewers would be interested if they don’t think Corey Hart will bounce back. The Mets just plain need an outfielder, and could find Damon attractive. In all those situations, however, Damon would have to play the field almost every day. Is an NL team willing to take that risk, for three years no less?
Teams don’t always act predictably, and there’s a chance a team decides Damon is worth the three-year commitment. Chances are, however, that after exploring his options on other teams, Damon finds the best situation back in New York, with the Yankees, on terms resembling what the Yankees are currently offering.