Braves still on the Damon trailBy
We’re just 35 days away from pitchers and catchers, and we’ve still yet to hear of another team making Johnny Damon an offer. We’ve heard of teams interested in him, both as rumors from sources and as speculation. But even when someone reported on an actual offer, someone else shot it down. Johnny will certainly receive an offer, maybe a few, in the next few weeks, and one will likely come from the Braves. They remain interested, and figure to be the most logical Damon destination other than the Bronx.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the reporter who shot down the rumored Damon offer, says that the two parties remain a match, “and it could happen now that his price has presumably shrunk along with his market.” While the price drop remains a presumption, Damon’s market has certainly shrunk over the past few weeks. His potential suitors, including the Braves, have all added pieces that would make him less of a priority, if not preclude him altogether.
With Juan Uribe, Mark DeRosa, and Aubrey Huff in the fold, the Giants probably don’t have room for Damon. Seattle reportedly expressed interest earlier in the off-season, but have since added Milton Bradley in addition to Ken Griffey Jr. That pretty much fills the LF and DH spots, and the team also has a number of low-cost options, such as Ryan Langerhans and youngster Michael Saunders, so adding Damon seems out of the question. That leaves New York and Atlanta.
Even with those teams, Damon has little leverage. The Yankees have made no secret of their budget and what remains of it. While that could expand under the right circumstances, and while they could attempt to trade Chad Gaudin and his presumed $3 million arbitration figure, both don’t remain likely possibilities right now. While the Braves could use all the outfield help they could get, they do have a few options in 2010. In addition to Nate McLouth, they’ve added Melky Cabrera and Eric Hinske, and have Matt Diaz and top prospect Jason Heyward. Sure, Damon is better than Melky, Hinske, and Diaz, and is a better bet than Heyward. But the Braves do have options.
What has become apparent from Damon’s situation, along with Bobby Abreu’s from last year, is that teams just aren’t that willing to sign veteran corner outfielders to multiyear deals. Because the player seeks a long-term deal at the beginning of the off-season, he loses out and the price for even one year of service dwindles. The Yankees apparently offered two years and $14 million in December. Is there another offer like that out there now? It doesn’t appear so. Damon will probably have to settle for one year at a $6 or $7 million salary. That’s what happens when your options balk at your demands and seek alternatives.