As the Hot Stove League has worn on, Johnny Damon rumors have become the meme of the day. He sent a text message about playing for any team! He spoke to the Tigers! He didn’t speak to the Tigers! He had eggs for breakfast! If anything, the constant attention to Johnny Damon has highlighted the problems baseball coverage faces in a 24-hour online environment. At some point, the filter disappeared, and everything mundane Damon did became a major story.
Yet, as December became January, as Spring Training drew every closer, Damon remained both unemployed and seemingly off the Yankees’ radar. Brian Cashman had built his team as he saw fit, and if Johnny Damon didn’t feel he could meet the Yanks’ price, Cashman was prepared to move on. In fact, according to most reports, the Yanks hadn’t spoken to Damon for weeks.
Earlier this week, though, we saw the first signs of a thaw. Jerry Hairston, Jr. speculated that the Yanks weren’t moving on anyone else yet because they were waiting for Damon’s price to come down. While Cashman denied saying so directly, Hairston’s words rang if not true at least plausible. Even with shoddy defense, Damon can be a useful player in a power packed lineup for the Yanks.
And so, it is of little surprise that Damon and the Yanks are, according to Jon Heyman, back on speaking terms. Over at MLB Trade Rumors tonight, our very own Mike Axisa had the transcription from the MLB Network:
“He did meet or talk to the Yankees in the last couple of days. Still doesn’t look like a great chance of happening though believe it or not. They are talking, but the Yankees have these budgetary constraints. They’ve been telling other teams they have about $2 million to spend. I think for Damon they would probably go over that. I mean this is a guy who’s had 100 runs scored nine times and 24 home runs. Terrific player, but I would still say more likely Braves or Tigers, at this point.”
Who knows what that means? Heyman has long been a press mouthpiece, in a sense, for Scott Boras, and it’s quite reasonable to see Boras behind this quote. He’s trying to publicly engage the Yanks and push them to come up with the money for Damon. They could go a few million dollars over budget for Damon, and Boras wants that to happen soon.
Heyman mentions two possible destinations for Damon, but neither seem likely at this juncture. The Braves say they’re through spending. They’re not going to wipe out the cost savings from sending Javier Vazquez away by upping with Damon for few million. The Tigers too are believed to be at or near their budget limits. I wonder if Mariners, still in the hunt for a bat, could get involved, but so far, they’ve been quiet.
Right now, this rumor is still a low level one, but it’s one we’ve been expecting. If Damon is a Yankee come mid-February, no one will be that surprised. And if he’s not a Yankee, no one will be that surprised either.