Archive for Johnny Damon
AP Photo/Rob Carr)
“I know where I want to be next year. I want to be here in New York.”
Maybe I let myself get suckered in by Johnny Damon last spring and summer. Maybe I listened to him speak in radio interviews and locker room chats in May, after games in August and on Sirius XM as recently as November and dared to believe he was telling the truth.
“This would definitely be the best place for me. I’d sure love to keep taking advantage of that right-field porch.”
It would have been simple for Damon to stay in New York City. All he had to do was tell that to his agent and urge Scott Boras to make one last contract work. After all, Damon will be playing his age 36 season in 2010, and with his defense slowing down, he’ll need to DH. With that short porch in right field, Yankee Stadium was perfectly suited to Damon’s bat, and while Brian Cashman has wisely improved the team’s defense, Damon would have had a role to play yet.
“I don’t know where else I would want to go to. Obviously, that’s not the right thing to say when you’re about ready to approach free agency, but I’m very happy with playing in New York, and my family’s happy I play for New York. There’s no bigger place to go.”
Yet, this past weekend just days before he had to report to training camp somewhere, Johnny Damon finally reached an agreement with the Detroit Tigers on a one-year deal rumored to be worth $8 million. He’ll inexplicably receive a no-trade clause, and even though his wife was reported to be unhappy with the move and even though the Yanks had extended him a multi-year offer, Damon will take his bat and glove to the pitcher’s park of Comerica and hope for the best.
In the Bronx, last week Brian Cashman sounded somewhere between a jilted lover and a shocked businessman — shocked at Scott Boras’ hubris and the way Damon and his agent seemingly misplayed this off-season. He offered the incumbent left fielder a two-year deal worth $14 million, and even though that money represented a significant pay cut for Damon, it would remain the best one Johnny had on the table all winter. At the time, Cashman too knew it would be the top offer Damon would get.
“The industry the last two free agent markets seems to be going downward and the player’s ages are going upward,” Cashman said. “It makes more sense to be patient. My attitude is if this is the place you want to be, you will make it happen. Johnny Damon professed his love for the Yankees, wanted to be here and was given every chance to be here. He’s not here anymore and I don’t feel that is the Yankees’ fault. They have to reconcile why they are not here, not me. If people want to be here and be a part of something, then find a way to work it out.”
Cashman was clearly irked at the way the negotiations went down. “Scott Boras said, ‘Bobby Abreu’s contract is $9 million a year right now on the table so why would we do that? So I expect to see a Bobby Abreu contract.’” the Yanks’ GM said. “I hope he does not sign for something less than our offer. That means he should have been a Yankee and that’s not our fault.”
At the same time, Ken Rosenthal wonders if Boras is to blame. The Fox Sports scribe believes Boras wanted to keep the Cardinals believing that the Yanks were interested in Matt Holliday and therefore never engaged the Yanks on Damon until it was far too late. From what we’ve heard in the past about Boras and from a business perspective, this conspiracy theory would make sense. After all, Holliday will make Boras far more money over the next eight or ten years than Damon will, and it just makes sense for Boras to push Damon to the side while focusing on his younger and more valuable clients.
Here we are, then, without Johnny Damon. I know my tone here sounds more annoyed than I actually am. I didn’t like Damon’s defense, and I can see his production completely falling off a cliff this year, especially away from his home run haven. Yet, something about Damon made me believe his sincerity. Today, though, I know how Red Sox fans felt after the 2005 season. Johnny Damon might talk the talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, money — and less than he could have gotten in the first place — ruled the day instead.
Via MLBTR, the Tigers and Johnny Damon have reached on a one-year deal guaranteeing him $8M. The Yankees offered Johnny $6M ($3M of which was deferred) a few weeks ago, but he turned it down and they turned to Randy Winn. I’m glad it worked out for him. The deal includes a no-trade clause, but I’m willing to bet he’d waive it to rejoin the Yankees, should such a situation arise.
Damon was a great player for the Yankees during his time here, and I wish him the best in Detroit. At least now Austin Jackson won’t get thrown to the wolves and be forced to hit leadoff.
In no way do I believe the Yankees will do this, nor do I think they should. Johnny Damon had an excellent pinstriped tenure that ended with a World Series title. Retaining him seemed like an option, but only if his contract demands fell into the Yankees’ desired range. That didn’t happen, and the Yankees moved on. While I’d love to see Johnny back in the lineup this year, it’s so unlikely at this point that I had to concoct this crazy scenario. As the price for acquiring one year of Damon, it hardly seems worth the trouble.
In the MLB Rumors and Rumblings section of his Weekend Update on Baseball Prospectus, John Perrotto mentioned Damon’s desire to play for the Rays, citing his nearby residence in Orlando. In the next sentence, Perrotto drops the bomb. “He has not completely ruled out a return to the Yankees, even though they have signed Randy Winn to presumably take his place on the roster.” Ignoring the one-for-one replacement of Damon with Winn — and further ignoring the flawed idea of “replacing” production — this is an interesting statement. How could he not rule out a return to the Yankees when it seems everyone else has?
Last week, just after the Winn signing, SI’s Jon Heyman wrote a column about the situation between the Yankees and Damon, quoting both Brian Cashman and Damon at length. Both sides expressed the desire for a reunion, but both recognized the obstacles that stood, and continue to stand, in the way. Both also conceded that they could get back together at some point in the future. “You never know,” said Cashman. Not the most specific of endorsements, but like any good GM, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility if a favorable situation arose.
The Yankees have three outfielders who have guaranteed 2010 contracts: Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Randy Winn. Beyond that they have Brett Gardner, who will make the league minimum and who has two options remaining, and Jamie Hoffmann, whom the Yankees must offer back to the Dodgers if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training. By all appearances, the Yankees will use Gardner and Winn in left, doling out their playing time as their performances warrant. Hoffmann, if he makes the roster, would serve as the fifth outfielder and late-inning defensive replacement — perhaps as a pinch runner with Gardner already in the game.
For now, we can discount Hoffmann. I doubt the Yankees will make roster moves to accommodate him. If he plays well enough to earn a spot, he’ll get it. If they have another player who can fill his role better, they’ll go with that player. That leaves four outfielders, which sounds about right. Winn and Swisher can play both corners, while Granderson and Gardner profile best in left or center. That seems to cover the outfield. So where in the world would Damon fit?
In any return scenario, Gardner would be the odd man out. He not only has an option or two remaining, but he has drawn interest from other teams this off-season, namely the Reds, Padres, White Sox, and Royals. Because any Damon contract would cover just one year, the Yankees wouldn’t necessarily have to trade Gardner to open a spot. They could simply start him in the minors and use him to fill in when needed. This makes the Yankees situation a bit more flexible.
The main obstacle in a Damon-Yankees reunion is the same as it ever was. Before acquiring Winn the Yankees had just $2 million left in their Opening Day payroll budget. All of that went to Winn, so unless Damon is willing to play for the league minimum the Yankees would have to free up some salary. Of their players currently under contract, only Chad Gaudin makes sense from a salary standpoint. He’ll make $2.95 million to start 2010.
In his column, Heyman notes that Cashman floated “a contract of $6 million with $3 million deferred at no interest.” The idea, apparently, is that while the entire $6 million would count against the official Opening Day payroll, Hal Steinbrenner might be open to a deal with deferred money. With around $3 million in savings from dealing Gaudin, presumably for a low-level or low-ceiling minor leaguer, the Yankees could put this offer back on the table. They could go even lower, too, because we haven’t seen much interest in Damon since the Winn signing.
Why it makes sense
If Damon hits as well as he did last season, he’ll be more valuable than Winn at the plate in 2010. If his defense, as Damon himself says, “was only the first two months, and it involved probably five plays,” then perhaps he can play a capable left field. We know that his bat plays well at the Stadium, and that he’s a good guy to have in the clubhouse. His speed, while not what it was when he first signed, is still an asset.
Why it doesn’t make sense
To list them:
- Trading away pitching depth to sign another outfielder doesn’t seem like a great idea.
- The Yankees seem to like Brett Gardner, probably enough to give him at least a half-season’s worth of at-bats in left field.
- The chances of Damon replicating his 2009 season remain low. He’ll be a useful offensive player, but it’s doubtful that he replicates a career year — one in which he slipped considerably toward the end.
- Stats and scouts agreed that Damon played poorly in left field last season, so his return to league average doesn’t appear likely.
Why it won’t happen
Judging from his track record, I don’t think Brian Cashman will alter his roster, trading away valuable pitching depth, just to accommodate Damon. They’re likely mindful that 2010 Damon isn’t 2009 Damon, and that the latter outperformed most reasonable expectations. True, for $6 million, with $3 million deferred, he wouldn’t have to replicate his production to justify the contract. But, again, the Yankees would have to make a further sacrifice in order to even think about bringing back Damon. I just don’t see them doing that.
Really, this is just a crazy thought based on Johnny not yet ruling out a return to New York. The door might remain unlocked, but it’s definitely shut. I doubt the Yankees would go through the trouble at this point. They should be too busy preparing for another championship season in 2010.
Photo credit: Eric Gay/AP
Via Jon Heyman, Brian Cashman ran the idea of a one-year, $6M contract by Johnny Damon last week, however he never received a response. The deal would have included a $3M salary in 2010 with another $3M deferred without interest, and came with the promise that Hal Steinbrenner was going to sign off on it. Cashman simply never heard back from Damon and his camp, so they moved on to Randy Winn, who was ready to sign elsewhere.
Will Damon get more than $6M guaranteed? We’ll wait and see, but my guess is no. He might get $6M, but not a penny more.
When the Yankees agreed to a deal with Randy Winn this afternoon, it effectively ended Johnny Damon‘s tenure in pinstripes. I’ll admit it, I was one of the many who hated the Damon signing when it first happened because I despised him for his time with the Red Sox and that grand slam off Javy Vazquez in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. Although it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, Damon’s four years in the Bronx were more than enough to make me appreciate him as a player and as a person.
A .285-.363-.458 hitter with the Yanks, Damon hit more homers in pinstripes than with any other team he’s played for, and of course he was an important part of last year’s World Championship. His nine pitch at-bat against Brad Lidge in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the World Series was one of the greatest at-bats in recent Yankee history, and his double steal one pitch after that was perhaps the biggest moment of the postseason. Damon was tremendously productive with the Yanks, and he was integral in changing the culture from uptight and corporate to fun-loving.
We should all thank Johnny for his service in pinstripes. Even though I hated him at the start, I’ll readily admit he was worth every penny.
After the jump, we’ve got some of Damon’s finest moments with the Yankees. Pictures are worth 1,000 words, after all. Once you’re done perusing them, then go to town on this here open thread.
Judging by the way he’s spoken to the media this week, Brian Cashman is as sick of the Johnny Damon drama as the rest of us. I can understand, to an extent, the attention surrounding the situation. Damon is the best remaining free agent, and the Yankees have a perceived hole in left field. But they also claim to have a tight budget, making what appears to be a perfect marriage a bit dicier. And so, the more time Johnny spends on the free agent market, the more we hear about his prospects, both real and fabricated.
This week Cashman has seemed a bit irritated when a reporter raises the topic. Over the weekend, when Jon Heyman floated the story about the Yankees putting a weekend deadline on their offer to Damon, Cashman wasn’t too friendly when asked for a comment.
“Long long it’s taking certain people to wake up and smell the coffee, that’s what surprises me,” Cashman said. “Wake up and smell the coffee,” seems to be one of his favorite phrases. But who, in this instance, should roll themselves out of bed and take a whiff of the French roast? “When you get on the phone with agents, they tell you one thing, and certain agents can’t honestly believe what they’re trying to convey. Do they think I’m stupid?” Emphasis, of course, is mine.
I wasn’t with Cashman when he said this. I don’t know what tone he took, though having heard him speak before I can venture a pretty good guess. But even absent that information, it sounds like he’s referring to Scott Boras. If Bill Madden is right about Boras continuing to float mystery teams instead of talking numbers, I’d say it’s almost certain that the above quote could read, “…Scott Boras can’t honestly believe what he’s trying to convey.”
Yesterday Bryan Hoch asked Cashman about Johnny Damon, and he started off frankly. “I’m not having any discussions with him,” Cashman said. Fair enough. Straight forward, answering the question — things you expect. But then he added a bit of a zinger, again presumably targeted at Boras.
“His abilities exceed the money that I have.”
I definitely chuckled at this a bit. Boras has gone on and on about Johnny’s invincibility this winter, and now that his other major clients have homes he has probably ramped up that effort over the past week or so. I can only imagine Cashman’s annoyance at constantly hearing it from Boras. His quote is also, I think, a hint at the dissonance between Boras’s demands and the current market. Yes, Johnny is a valuable player, and in a different year he’d probably have received a multiyear offer. This year that will not happen. But Boras continues to bang the drum.
All parties seem to think the Yankees are moving on. That’s just public discourse, however. Until Johnny signs elsewhere, the possibility remains that he’ll again don pinstripes in 2010. But, in case he does sign in Oakland or Cleveland or some other team, the Yankees do have options. As Joel Sherman tweets, the Yankees are still considering their options, including Reed Johnson. Also, if Rocco Baldelli comes to Spring Training, it will be as a non-roster invite. That makes plenty of sense, considering Baldelli’s injury history and performance last season.
Over the weekend, Damon said he’d have a team by the end of this week. Please, oh please let that be true. I don’t think I have the stomach for much more of this.
Update (1:58pm): Nady got $3.3M, plus another $2M in incentives. The base salary is a 50% pay cut.
11:00am: Via MLBTR, free agent outfielder Xavier Nady has agreed to a contract with the Cubs, ending his brief tenure in the Bronx. Nady still has to take a physical, which is no given considering he’s coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. The Yanks didn’t offer him arbitration because he would have probably accepted given his elbow, so they won’t get a draft pick even though he was a Type-B.
Nady hit .270-.319-.469 in close to 300 plate appearances with the Yankees, and was a potential left field option. Let’s see what the dollars are before everyone gets fussy.
It seems like everyone caught Johnny Damon Fever over the weekend. It started on Friday, when we heard that the Yankees and Damon had been talking, and grew more intense when Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees made an offer with a deadline attached. Brian Cashman denied such an offer, but things stayed heated when Marc Carig heard from Damon that he’d have a team in a week. That was only the beginning of the latest Damon saga.
Bill Madden weighed in on the matter on Saturday, giving his version of the exchange between team and player.
Still, as recently as a couple of days ago, there was renewed dialogue between Damon, Boras and the Yankees in which the Yankees made one last attempt to have a good Yankee remain a Yankee.
“Tell us your bottom line for what you’re willing to play for,” they said, “and if it’s in the realm of where our budget needs to be we can go to ownership (Hal Steinbrenner) and see if something can be worked out.” But instead of giving them a number, Boras came back with more of his patented “mystery team” hogwash, claiming he had a couple of other offers they were still considering.
That mystery team, it appears, is the Oakland A’s. Buster Olney tweeted about that this morning, noting that the A’s could see Damon as their Plan B, should they miss out on Ben Sheets. Still, I don’t see why the A’s, with their spacious ballpark and roster full of outfielders and a DH, would bring in Damon should they fail to sign a pitcher. Again, it sounds like that could just be a leverage play by Boras in order to extract the most possible dollars out of the Yankees.
I really hope that Damon isn’t just being overly optimistic when he says that he’ll have a team this week. I caught Damon Fever a few weeks ago, and really I’d just like to get it out of my system and move on. But, like a nagging cold that you seemingly can’t shake all winter, the Damon saga continues in waves. It’s almost flu-like now. The sooner it’s over, the more I can enjoy the rest of the winter.
More than just a text message from Johnny Damon, we have news. It’s an honest-to-goodness rumor of a low offer from the Yanks to Johnny Damon. Jon Heyman tweets: “Damon has days to take low deal with Yankees. Assuming he says no, they’ll sign another OF soon from Johnson, Nady, Winn, Edmonds, Dye.” Of the non-Damon candidates, I’d take Reed Johnson and maybe Xavier Nady but no one else.
Heyman had more in a piece on SI.com. The Yankees, he says, have asked for a decision at the end of the weekend and are believed to be offering a base of “probably no more than $5 million guaranteed” for Damon. Otherwise, the team will look to spend $2 million for a left fielder. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman has denied the existence of a deadline, but no one ever told him denial is just a river in Egypt. Meanwhile, Marc Carig has a — drumroll, please — text message from Damon who says he’ll “have a team in a week.” We’ll see if this goes anywhere.