MLB Free Agency: 3 Teams That Will Come Calling Soon for Johnny Damon
As the regular season approaches, MLB's free-agent frenzy has just about come to an end. Most of the big names on the market have already found a home, but there's a small list of free agents still out there who will likely sign soon.
Johnny Damon is one of those names yet to have found a team for the 2012 season. Damon hit .261/.326/.417 with 16 homers and 73 RBI as the DH for the Rays last year, and there are a few teams who could use those numbers on their roster this season as he continues his quest for 3,000 hits.
The main problem for the 38-year-old is that he doesn't feature the speed he used to have, which provided him with more stolen bases and much better defense in the outfield.
The fact that he has almost no defensive value at all is a turn-off for teams that have shown interest in him in the past; such as the Yankees, Orioles, and Tigers.
Although the list of teams that could pick up Damon is small, it looks like a deal for him is likely within the next month. Damon's agent Scott Boras told ESPN's Buster Olney on Monday that his client will be signed by May 1.
Johnny Damon looking for opportunity with 450 PAs, according to agent Scott Boras. "Damon will be signed by May 1st; just don't know where."— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 2, 2012
Boras is uncertain of which team will make an offer for Damon, but there's only a few teams that could be real possibilities.
Here are the three teams I think are the most likely to come calling for Damon this month.
According to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com, the Tigers have been in talks to bring back Damon as their DH in 2012. Detroit hasn't publicly shown interest in Damon during the last couple of months, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them sign him sometime in the coming weeks.
Damon said last month in an interview on MLB Network Radio that he would like to play in Detroit, but wasn't so sure of his chances because of the "number of bodies" and the team's "loyalty to Magglio Ordonez." Now it looks like Ordonez is nearing retirement, which means he's no longer a factor.
The Tigers don't need outfield help, but they could use someone to fill in at DH. Ryan Raburn is their current designated hitter, and it would make sense to sign Damon when you compare the two's stats. Damon batted .05 points higher with 24 more RBI, two more homers and 18 more stolen bases.
Damon clearly puts up the better numbers. In addition to that, he provides the veteran presence to the ball club that Raburn doesn't.
I expect to see the Tigers look for a DH sometime soon, which is why I see Damon as a possibility for them.
The Braves are looking to pick up an extra outfielder, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Left fielder Martin Prado will likely fill in at third base while Chipper Jones recovers from his knee injury, leaving a possible spot for Damon to fill in.
Although the Braves are looking for outfield help, it's not clear how much interest the Braves have in Damon. After all, Atlanta does have three bench players who can play left field with Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske and Jose Constanza.
Still, it's a possibility that Atlanta's management would like to have Damon as a backup outfielder instead of all three of them. That's why we can expect to see the Braves give Scott Boras a call sometime before May.
The Indians are another possible destination for Johnny Damon's services. Cleveland has been discussing a trade to acquire left fielder Bobby Abreu, but apparently the trade fell apart due to financial reasons.
If the Indians are looking for help in left field, Damon could probably be a fit. Last week, Buster Olney wondered if Cleveland could make a move at Damon.
Just a thought: If CLE willing to trade for Abreu to platoon in LF, why not sign Johnny Damon, who had a better year in '11?— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 30, 2012
Damon had a better year in 2011, and both are left-handed bats that can fill in at both the corner outfield positions and DH. If an Abreu trade doesn't work out, which seems likely at the moment, then Cleveland could become a serious possibility for Damon.
Shelley Duncan is the Indians' current left fielder, but the Indians don't seem to be anxious to have him as an everyday starter. With a lefty like Damon, the Indians can platoon. That means Damon would play more against right-handed pitchers while Duncan would get the start against lefties.
Damon's stats were better than Duncan's last season, which is another reason why I think the Indians are probably the front-runners to pick up Damon this month. If Cleveland is not able to snag Abreu, it's really a no-brainer for them to go after Damon.