Why Texas Rangers Should Sign Johnny Damon Right Now

Marc RubinContributor IIIApril 7, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG - OCTOBER 03:  Designated hitter Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratuled after scoring against the Texas Rangers during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers and Johnny Damon are a heavenly match.

Texas needs outfield depth because Nelson Cruz has never played more than 128 games in a season, David Murphy never more than 138 and in the past 3 years, Josh Hamilton has not played more than 133.

The Rangers would also have insurance in the event they cannot re-sign Hamilton, who should be a coveted 2013 free agent. After all, despite the Rangers' well-publicized new cash-flow from their rich TV contract, they will be negotiating with both free agent catchers Mike Napoli and Yorbit Torrealba. The Napoli discussions will likely be revolving around Yadier Molina's 5-year $75 million contract. Also, starter Colby Lewis as well as relievers Mike Adams and Mark Lowe will be free agents.

Damon likely wants to finish his career with a contender and also with the possibility of attaining 3,000 hits. He's at 2,723 right now and is likely chomping at the bit to get back into MLB so as to move closer to that 3,000-hit goal.

But the most significant reason Texas needs Damon is for his prowess against nemesis pitchers who have stymied the Rangers in the past; Felix Hernandez within the division is one, and Justin Verlander is another.

Now that the Angels have become a powerhouse with the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Rangers' hold on the AL West is in jeopardy, and winning the division has become more critical in light of the new single-game wild card teams playoff arrangement. Texas can not afford to lose many games to an expected also-ran like Seattle.

However, over the past five years Seattle ace Felix Hernandez has thrown 17 quality starts versus Texas, winning nine of those. Johnny Damon is 11 for 22 with four doubles and a home run in his career against Felix, for a striking 1,378 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Detroit's Justin Verlander is 6-2 lifetime versus Texas with a 2.31 earned run average and 58 strikeouts in 58 innings. He went 1-1 versus the Rangers in last year's playoffs. Damon is 9 for 25 with three doubles and two home runs, for a 1,105 OPS against Verlander.

Recently the White Sox's Gavin Floyd has tormented the Rangers with two quality starts in 2011 and one in 2010; Damon is a remarkable 12 for 22 with a double and home run, for a 1,343 OPS against Floyd.

Toronto's Ricky Romero is a left-hander who dominated Texas in 2010, throwing three quality starts including a May 15th five-hit complete game shutout. His career earned run average versus Texas is 0.92 . Damon has destroyed Romero, going 12 for 23 with three doubles and four home runs for an astounding 1,807 OPS.

Boston's Jon Lester is another left-hander who has been successful against Texas with a 3-1 career record and 48 strikeouts in 54 innings. Damon has produced an 874 career OPS versus Lester.

Texas will likely face Hernandez five times and Verlander, Floyd, Romero and Lester twice apiece in 2012. That's a total of 13 games. Upon adding two games for new AL rival Derek Lowe, who Damon has battered for a 1,341 OPS, and one for interleague foe Joe Saunders, who he's hit for an 871 OPS, we're up to 16 games. Those 16 games equal 10 percent of the season in which Texas will face troublesome pitchers, against whom Johnny Damon has thrived. Without Damon, maybe Texas goes 8-8 in these 16 rugged games; with him, perhaps 10-6. Add to that two game difference one other one he could win with a clutch pinch-hit, for he is 6 for 16 with a 375 batting average in that role over the past two years. That three game swing I am suggesting could be critical in the race with the Angels.

And then if Texas did make it to their third consecutive World Series, Damon has pummeled potential foes Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson and Kyle Lohse.

Interestingly, an alternative to Damon is J.D. Drew, who has also done well against Hernandez and Verlander. Another similarity is that both guys, Damon and Drew, have struggled against the big Texas nemesis, the Angels' Jered Weaver who has thrown 16 quality starts and nine wins at Texas over the past five seasons. Curiously, Mark Teahan is a lifetime 264 hitter who has hit Weaver for a 1,006 OPS and may be available later in the season.

But I like the Damon addition idea the most. The Rangers' own Matt Harrison can attest to Damon's talent, since Damon has amassed a 1,367 OPS against him. Look for super-agent Scott Boras to get this deal done. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Boras says that he'll get Damon signed by May 1st. Damon and "Texas Ranger" just sounds good, doesn't it?