Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Damon, Yankees to Reunite?

UPDATE (12/23/2010 at 11:30 a.m.):  According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, a deal between Damon and the Yankees is unlikely due to the lack of playing time available.  This report identifies the Rays as an "ideal" situation for Damon.  I hadn't thought of it before, but they are looking for DH who will command a reasonable salary.  Damon certainly fits that bill.  Plus, it's close to his home in Orlando.  I wouldn't be surprised to see reports in the near future tying him to the Rays, especially if his salary demands continue to drop.

Original Post (12/22/2010 at 9:50 p.m.):  Ladies and gentleman, we have our first Johnny Damon sighting of the winter!  Well, maybe not the first, but certainly the first in a long time.* 

* I just did a quick Google search of Johnny Damon news stories.  The last story/rumor that mentioned Johnny Damon (prior to today's news) happened on December 17th.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen. 

The Yankees are reportedly in talks with Johnny Damon regarding a possible return the Big Apple after his one year sabbatical in Detroit.   While this is interesting in a "gee whiz" sort of way, I'm not sure how he fits in with the 2011 version of the Yankees.  With Posada soaking up the majority of games at DH, and Brett Gardner having proven his worth in left field, there doesn't appear to be a lot of plate appearances left for Damon.   Also, Damon is reportedly looking for a full-time job, which he certainly won't get with the Yankees unless someone gets injured.

As most of you probably remember, Damon never wanted to leave New York in the first place.  Super agent Scott Boras completely misread the market, and grossly overvalued the demand for his client's skills.  When it came down to it, the only team willing to give him multi-season contract was the Yankees.  The problem was that the Yankees were unwilling to meet Damon's over-the-top salary demands.  (Sound familiar?)  Rather than overpay for an aging, declining asset, the Yankees signed the oft-injured Nick Johnson.  Damon was left to wander the free agent wasteland aimlessly.  A couple of weeks later, he tried to rekindle talks with New York, but they'd moved on.  Instead, he signed with Detroit to a one year $8M deal, in which he hoped to use to rebuild his value.  He did not.  Now, he's a middling free agent once again.  Damon seemed to really enjoy being a Yankee.  It's possible he'd be willing to take a reduced role and lower salary in order to don the Yankee pinstripes once again.

After putting up some of the best offensive numbers with the Yankees in 2009 (.282/.365/.489, .376 wOBA), Damon struggled to find his stroke last season hitting .271/.355/.401 (.340 wOBA).  While those numbers might be acceptable for a center fielder, they aren't for a designated hitter.  Going into his age-37 season, there's reason to believe that the struggles we saw Damon go through in 2010, weren't actually struggles.  They appeared to be a sign of age-related decline.  While we won't know for sure if he's established a new performance baseline until he plays out 2011, it certainly appears to be the case.  

There are still a few teams looking for a full time designated hitter.  The Rangers, Angels, and possibly Orioles are among the interested parties.  Additionally, there are a few National League teams looking for an offense oriented left fielder like the Dodgers and Giants.  While he would certainly be a detriment to both of those teams defensively, his bat should at least provide enough value to cover the veritable black holes currently encumbering the position.

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