Damon: It wasn’t about the money, but Yanks said no anyway

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As the Yanks’ off-season unfolded and their DH platoon needs came into view, Johnny Damon‘s name surfaced amongst the Yankee rumors. Damon, a free agent whose numbers likely suffered in the Trop last year, is shy of 3000 hits and still unemployed. I wasn’t too keen on his return to the Bronx and made a rather flimsy case for him. By the time I warmed to the thought of a Damon reunion, the Yanks had locked up Raul Ibañez.

On Tuesday, Damon, still unemployed and hoping for any job offer, took to the airwaves. On SiriusXM, he spoke with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden, and of course, the conversation came around to the Yanks. What happened with the Bombers, Stern asked.

“The only conversation was me reaching out to them because obviously at this point in my career, I would like to have some say on who I can and can’t play for it,” Damon said. “I just wanted to make sure Cashman knew it wasn’t about the money. Pay me whatever, and I’ll try to help you win a championship.”

According to Damon, Cashman basically said thanks, but no thanks. The Yanks’ GM told the free agent that he and his scouts believed Ibañez would be a better option in the outfield because Raul had the chance to play the field for a few years. Damon defended his defense, saying he didn’t have a spot patrolling the Tampa Bay turf because the rest of the Rays’ outfielders were among the best in the league. “I like to think that my legs are a bit fresher,” he said. His arm, of course, is another matter.

Furthermore, Damon claimed that since he hits left-handed pitching so well and the Yanks already have Andruw Jones, he wasn’t a great fit. Cashman, he says, didn’t want to take at-bats away from Jones. “They brought in Andruw Jones to hit left-handed pitching and I actually do that more than right-handed pitching,” he said. Last year, Damon hit southpaws better than he did righties, but historically, he has been a better offensive threat against right-handers.

I’m not sure if we should make much of this at all. It sounds to me as though the Yanks’ reasons for pursuing Ibañez over Damon were a bit flimsy. The club isn’t really expecting Ibañez to be more than fifth outfielder on the depth charts. Maybe he’ll hit; maybe, playing his age 40 season, he won’t. He’s 2 for 21 during Spring Training, but no one on the Yanks is doing much hitting so far.

In an ideal world, perhaps the Yanks would have Ibañez and Damon in camp together competing for one job. If Damon’s words are true, he may have been willing to do that. For now, though, that ship has sailed. Damon appears to be lobbying Detroit for a job, and the Yanks will cobble together a few hundred left-handed plate appearances from Ibañez and others. Damon’s was the reunion never meant to be.

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  • RetroRob

    I believe the Yankees will realize they made an error here. Not that Damon is a difference maker. It’s that Ibanez is most likely done.

    I am concerned about the Yankees evaluators if they actually did sign Ibanez on the belief he’s a better fielding option than Damon. He has a better arm, but he is a statue. If Ibanez ends up playing more than a couple dozen games in the OF (and I hope it’s not even that much), then something has gone horribly wrong.

    • whozat

      I think Cashman made it clear that no one thought he was _better_ but rather that he is more likely to be able to go out there every day for two straight weeks without breaking down, if need be.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/czm26 Craig

    This is until Ibanez doesn’t cut it and Damon is still unsigned by mid-May.

  • chcmh

    It’s hard to believe Ibanez or Damon is the best option. No one in the minors to soak up some at bats and at least give you some younger legs out there in the outfield?

    • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

      I’ll be surprised if Ibanez actually ends up playing more than 9 total innings of outfield this year.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      No the outfield depth in the system is pretty poor. Williams to the rescue.

    • whozat

      You’re forgetting the other half of the job: DHing against righties.

      Dickerson can “at least give you some younger legs out there in the outfield,” but he’s probably not who you want on the heavy side of a DH platoon.

  • Kiko Jones

    Damon over Ibañez any of the day of the week and all day Sunday.

    • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

      twice. twice on Sunday.

      Biff: “Make like a tree and get outta here!”

  • Plank

    Wilson Betemit (I presume he’ll be the primary DH) of the Orioles is arguably the worst DH in the league next year, is playing for 1 MM this year, and is 30. If the 39 year old Damon wants a job, he has to be okay with a bench role or other part time work at this point.

  • DM

    “The only conversation was me reaching out to them because obviously at this point in my career, I would like to have some say on who I can and can’t play for it,” Damon said. “I just wanted to make sure Cashman knew it wasn’t about the money. Pay me whatever, and I’ll try to help you win a championship.”

    At this point in his career??? Spare me. There’s a reason he never signed a new contract with the same team over the course of his career.

  • http://none Jetes Speaks

    Cashman confuses me. He’ll trade Melky and prospects to bring back a guy who bombed here, but when it comes to Damon, a guy who thrived here, and a guy who owned Boston, there’s no room? I don’t get it. No one is suggesting we sign him to a multi year deal, but with that porch, and with his durability, he’s good fit here. Ibanez is done IMOP. We’ll see. Hope I’m wrong.

    • Plank

      Damon from 3 years ago has very little to do with Damon next year.

      • RetroRob

        True, but the same can and should be said about Ibanez, who never played for the Yankees.

        Damon’s OPS+s the past four years show 118, 118, 105 and 110. His wRC+ at 128, 124, 109 and 109. I prefer the latter metric, but both show that while he’s not the hitter he was when he was last with the Yankees, he is nevertheless still productive. The same can not be said about Ibanez, who did seem to fall off a cliff last year. It’s okay. Age catches up to all. I just don’t expect a rebirth at 40.

        I don’t think Ibanez will last the year. The Yankees hopefully are already thinking about Plan B.

        • Plank

          I’m not saying I think Ibanez or Damon would be better, but now it seems like you are projecting Damon’s superior skill level partially based on which teams he played for 3 years ago. That’s an absurd variable to include in a projection for future performance.

          • RetroRob

            I didn’t do that at all.

        • Havok9120

          Price, price, price.

          I know its a bit of a lame mantra, but it clearly matters. A lot.

          Is Damon 4 million dollars of improvement? I don’t see it yet.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Oh man, run away before you get flamed to death for committing sins.

      • Havok9120

        *looks left….looks right*


        *scratches head and walks away*

    • Havok9120

      Well, I give props to Cash for “owning Boston” not coming into his thinking. Perhaps that’s just me.

      The problem is that, say what he wants, the entire league seems to be assuming he’s after ~5 million. Which is, as they’ve said, beyond our price range for a guy who looks like he could be a marginal improvement. Its just a chance they weren’t willing to take, and I don’t really blame them too much for it.

    • Steve (different one)

      What does Damon have to do with Javy? Nothing. Javy was coming off a CY season when he brought him back. Damon is coming off a blah season. Apples and oranges.

  • Mattchu12

    Lets face it, at the rate things are going, Damon is still going to be around if Ibanez flames out and then we can re-address him as a possible DH.

    The only team I have heard about for him is Detroit, and I really think they’ll leave the DH spot open in case things get so bad that they need to move Miggy back to 1B (Fielder to DH) or to just DH in the first place. Johnny will probably be available in April.

    • Plank

      Lets face it, at the rate things are going, Damon is still going to be around if Ibanez flames out and then we can re-address him as a possible DH.

      Is that the rate that has been established from the start of Spring training to March 14?

    • Fin

      It will only take one or 2 injuries before Damon has job, I wouldnt bet on him being available too far into April.

  • Preston

    Damon is all about lobbying in the media. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe him at all. The fact that he said it’s not about the money, probably meant he was willing to take a pay cut from his 6.5 million the season before. Not that he was willing to play for 1 million. Now that he doesn’t have a job he’s trying to convince everyone (even himself) that it wasn’t so and he’s a victim.
    I’m not an Ibanez fan and I do think that Damon may have been the better option. But it’s close enough that I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Cash and his people. We are only one season removed from when we all begged Cash to pick up every junk hurler and RHB OF to platoon with Gardner out there other than the ones he picked. Garcia, Colon and Jones worked out pretty good. So I’ll give Cash some benefit of the doubt on which old players he thinks he can squeeze a little bit of production out of.

    • Plank

      We are only one season removed from when we all begged Cash to pick up every junk hurler and RHB OF to platoon with Gardner out there other than the ones he picked.

      You have a funny way of saying I.

      • Havok9120

        Uhhh. Surely you jest? I mean…I didn’t post much, but I’ve been here the last few years. Heck, even this offseason, the cries of “OSWALT” were everywhere before The Day. And last year it was far worse because we just needed warm bodies to hold us over until the kids were ready.

        I also remember the Gardner drama. Drama that continues, as he seems to be pretty darn polarizing.

        • Plank

          Posters and readers of this website aren’t a monolith. I also don’t even think the majority or significant minority want to replace Gardner.

          What’s wrong with giving your opinion and stating it as your own instead of falsely claiming to be speaking for others?

          • Preston

            You’re absolutely right. I wrongfully lumped every poster together. Many liked the Jones signing (myself included). And not all thought he should be taking AB’s from Gardner, a lot of people thought it should be Granderson, a perfectly valid opinion prior to his breakout against south paws in 2011. And not everyone wanted Cashman to sign an old or oft injured starter, some people wanted us to find a starter internally or through trade.
            However this is all missing the point that I was expressing that given all of the options available, the RHB OF and two starting pitchers he did sign ended up being the best possible options.
            And for the record I was meh on the Garcia signing, thought the Colon signing was a joke they did to placate Tony Pena (who recommended him after seeing him in winter ball) and really coveted Justin Duchscherer. So yes I’m part of the “we” I was referring to. I’m sorry if you were not part of that “we” and I offended you by lumping you in with me.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    It sucks that you couldn’t make more than a flimsy case for him. Might have led to the Yankees not sining him, you bastard!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Forgive me, father, for I have signed.

  • will

    Have to agree, Ibaneze has just plain sucked this spring.Even in BP he looks horrible

  • Havoc912O

    WE ALL should want Damon signed after Ibanez flames out in spring training. The Yankees are just being stubborn and when the lose its not going to surprise anyone. Damon could fix that.

  • Pasqua

    Man, Damon is a tireless baseball politician. He’s always campaigning in- between jobs, desperately trying to say the right thing.

    • DM

      Amen. He’ll sign with Baltimore for an Ibanez-like deal next week — then claim, “We have a great team here. I’ve always dreamed of being an Oriole.”

      And read between the lines of those quotes. If you’re coming hat-in-hand to Cashman, you’re not discussing how many ABs Jones will get. It doesn’t sound like “I’ll do anything you want me to do.” He wants 3k hits — b/c that’s his only HofF chance — and he needs playing time for that. And pay me “whatever” is still probably higher than the Yankees allocation for that role. Damon/Boras blew it two years ago — and tried to paint Cashman as the villain as well. It’s never “about the money” after it falls through — but during the process it always is.

      If he offers his services for $1mil without strings attached or any Boras BS, he’d get a job today.

    • Robinson Tilapia


  • LarryM.,Fl.

    IMHO, Ibanez offers one aspect to the Yankees and only one. A left hand bat who hit 25 HRs. last year with about 80+ RBI’s. if he can do this again and hit about .250 we have a winner. Damon’s output would be less based on recent years productions. True he played in Detroit two years ago but his production has been declining. Heck, I would have tried Dickerson for 3/4 months as the fourth OF and Left hand DH before Ibanez or Damon.

  • Monterowasdinero

    I don’t care for Ibanez and will be surprised if he is good let alone good all season. The most I’m hoping for is he works the count and tires out pitchers. If Damon is all about 3K I say we should sign him. Hits for Johnny are GOOD for us.

    I would DH Johnny a ton and, against lefties, would play Andruw in left and bring in Gardy or Grandy for defense, pinch running or pinch hitting from the 7th on and get Andruw out of there when indicated. It’s a long season.

    More hits for Johnny (oh and he won’t bat 2nd as he did all last year in over 150 games) is good for The. New.York.Yankees. And those 15-20 SB’s and speed on the basepaths are nice too.

  • A.D.

    It sounds to me as though the Yanks’ reasons for pursuing Ibañez over Damon were a bit flimsy.

    True, though if you turn it around so would be the case for Damon, basically it would be “TrueYankee” and then stop there

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      I don’t believe Johnny earned the title of “True Yankee.” We have had our share over the years but a player who gave his all can be said for many but one who wore many uniforms is a negative for the title from my view.

  • Steve (different one)

    I definitely preferred Damon to Ibanez. That said…

    All 30 teams have passed on Damon. It’s March 14.

    The Rays, widely held up as the smartest team in baseball, opted for Luke Scott over Damon.

    Should these two things tell us something? Idk, maybe, maybe not.

    Also, I am convinced the Yankees know they will be trading for a DH at the deadline. Teams aren’t trading their starters before ST, or the yanks don’t want to take a full year salary. But at the deadline we’ll be looking at Hafner, Carlos Lee, Ethier, etc. Ibanez is a placeholder, IMO.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I think they’ll be looking for an extra piece, no matter what, because they want to contend and adding to the bench has been the team’s approach the past few years at the deadline.

      That being said, wouldn’t it be awesome if Andruw Jones really was in “take someone’s job” mode and wound up taking those LH at-bats as well?

      I wish Ibanez well and I hope he does enough with the bat to quiet the doubters.

  • Dave M

    This was a bad move. Ibanez is done. Damon still has a little left in the tank. I seriously doubt that Ibanez will be with the team by the All Star break.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    The DH slop non-argument rears its ugly head again. If Ibanez turns out to not offer anything, the team will look elsewhere, or within its own ranks. If they’re out of contention by mid-May, it won’t be because of Raul Ibanez.

  • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

    Is everyone who’s saying Ibanez is done aware that he was still league average against RHP last year?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Shhhh. Don’t ruin the narrative.

  • Howard Cosell

    Every GM in the league will take another equal player over a Scott Boras client 100 out of 100 times.

    Cashman likes Boras as much as he likes he’s former stalking mistress. …


  • Samuel

    Johnny Damon has been a complete liar his entire major league baseball life, that no one can trust anything he says.

    It has been and always will be about the money for Damon.

    He blew it two years ago when he declined Cashman’s two-year $14 million offer.

    Tough shit now Johnny. Only way you will get in the Hall of Fame now is if you buy a ticket.

    Ibanez will be a much better hitter this season under his old coach Kevin Long. Long has made better hitters out of Cano and Graderson, and now he will with Ibanez.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s a bit excessive. While Damon’s schtick around FA time, or whenever he signs with another team, has gotten a bit old, I don’t think it’s worthy of anything more than an eye-roll whenever he speaks his mind.

    • Monterowasdinero

      We won the WS in 2009 and Johnny was a key figure for sure. He also played the field and we still won it all. He can still run, hit lefties, work the count and hit for power in YS. So what if he is a businessman as well and wants to get 3K and HOF credentials?

      Just win baby!

      • Samuel

        One of the reasons why Damon has not been picked up yet is he is chasing 3,000 hits and doesn’t work the count anymore.

        “So what if he is a businessman as well and wants to get 3K and HOF credentials?”

        Well, he definitely isn’t doing it for the Yankees, and it looks like no one else wants him, either.

        • Monterowasdinero

          I disagree with your first sentence. Working the count to a favorable situation is the way to get more hits and guess what? – Damon knows this!

          • Samuel

            Damon is chasing 3000 hits and became selfish last season. Did you read this piece from a months ago?:


            Obviously, Damon might have known this but doesn’t know this anymore!

            By the way, Montero was 0-3 with 3 whiffs yesterday.

            • Monterowasdinero

              I didn’t read it but it does talk about D’Antoni resigning today. Lol

              • Samuel

                Funny. I was linking Joel Sherman’s piece from Feb. 14 about Damon and why teams (including the Yankees) are staying away from Johnny.

                Google and read. Informative.

                Just got home from practice and saw D’Antoni resigned. He is better off without the Knicks, who are a Melo-mess right now.

      • Steve (different one)

        We don’t need a guy who “can hit lefties”. We need a guy who can hit righties. Jones mashes lefties.

        • Monterowasdinero

          And Jones plays (lf) against lefties. Damon can hit both and can play against both with some creative resting of Gardy from time to time who can then come in in the late innings to pinch run, pinch hit, play defense etc.

          Who hits lefties better? Damon or Gardner?

  • AC

    I have a hard time believing “pay me wharever”. He wasn’t gonna come to Tanks for the same deal Yanks gave Ibanez. He would of wanted more. Still think he has some gas left in tank “bat wise”. Playing OF not so much. Boras would never let him sign a $1.1 mill deal.