Cleveland Indians Sign Veteran Outfielder Johnny Damon
Just heard the mandatory physical is the only thing keeping Johnny Damon to #Indians deal unofficial. Could be done today or tomorrow.— Nick Camino (@CaminoTribe) April 12, 2012
Before long, the Indians will have signed a two-time All-Star and World Series champion with 2,723 career hits, albeit one who's 38 years old and in the twilight of his career.
UPDATE: Thursday, April 12 at 7:35 p.m. ET
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com is reporting that the deal is finished:
Damon deal complete w tribe— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) April 12, 2012
He also reported the terms of the deal:
Damon gets $1.25M plus $1.4M in perf. bonuses— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) April 12, 2012
At this point in his career, Damon is not a savior. He's not going to come in, put the Indians on his back and immediately make them better than the Detroit Tigers.
But there's a reason the Indians thought to seek out Damon's help, and that's because they do need him. The Indians are thin in the outfield right now, and an injury-prone Travis Hafner is far from the hitter he once was. The Tribe needs a bat it can plug in several different spots in the lineup.
Let's not forget that the Indians initially tried to get Bobby Abreu to be their all-purpose veteran hitter. That deal fell apart, and that's not such a bad thing now that the Indians are on the verge of acquiring Damon.
Over or under 10 home runs for Johnny Damon in an Indians uniform?
Damon is an upgrade over Abreu. Both of them are old, but at least Damon can still hit for power. He is coming off a 2011 season that saw him hit 29 doubles, seven triples and 16 home runs for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Damon's home runs came in bunches last season. He started the season hot with four dingers in April, and he hit five in August when the Rays were trying to make up ground in the AL East.
Not surprisingly, all 16 of Damon's home runs went out to right field. He will spray the ball around to get base hits, but he's always been good at turning on the ball and hitting it out to right. In 2011, he showed that he can still do that.
With Grady Sizemore on the shelf and Shelley Duncan in left field, there will be plenty of at-bats for Damon both in the short and long-term. Once there's no room for Damon in the outfield, don't be surprised if he and Hafner start sharing time at DH.
Adding Damon will not deliver the Indians an AL Central title. But given the way they're hitting thus far, his bat certainly won't hurt their lineup, which is batting well under .200 at the start of the season. This is one of those signings where neither side can lose.
Since this is probably going to be the last time any of us will be seeing Damon in a major league uniform, we should all enjoy it while it lasts.
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