Johnny Damon likely was on a few radar screens throughout August, after clearing waivers very early on and becoming eligible for trade. But the Tampa Bay Rays DH had scuffled so badly entering Monday—a .649 OPS since the All-Star break—that it had begun to look as though he would not be dealt.
After cranking two home runs and drawing a walk Monday, however, Damon might be back in the mix for several contenders. Three of his former teams are in real contention and would be able to make use of Damon. Even one National League team might come calling, despite Damon's virtually nonexistent defensive skills at this stage of his career.
These are the sort of opportunities Rays GM Andrew Friedman loves to exploit, so expect to hear Damon's name in several quarters over the next 36 hours. Whether or not he ends up there, here are five teams who will be in Friedman's ear, testing the waters for a possible deal.
San Francisco rates second, second and third from the bottom of MLB in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, and are dead last in runs scored. Aubrey Huff leads the squad with a .243 average and .677 OPS. Damon would represent a real upgrade over some of their current outfield options, even if "outfielder" only loosely describes Damon to begin with.
Are the Yanks ever going to wise up and recall Jesus Montero?
If so, they probably do not need Damon to provide DH help. But if not, the Rays will gladly take a player to be named later (his name might turn out to be "cash") for Damon and let their division rivals take Damon for one more spin in search of a World Series.
This would be more likely a move if Josh Reddick were not hitting as well as he is for Boston, and if Damon had not turned down Boston last season. It would be less likely if anyone were confident in J.D. Drew's rehab process coming to fruition soon.
Realistically, the Red Sox do not need Damon, but he would be a good insurance policy against Drew being unable to return this season.
The news that Brennan Boesch will need offseason thumb surgery has to drain Jim Leyland's confidence a bit, and if he or the front office feels Boesch will be limited down the stretch, they could well try to replace his left-handed stick with that of the man who scorned the Red Sox to stay there and compete in 2010.
That the Tigers fell far short of the playoffs is not Damon's fault, and the brass in Detroit still love him.
The team has prospect Leonys Martin en route, but his contributions will be solely defensive for the balance of the season. Rumors of Texas chasing Lance Berkman are probably overblown; the Cards might want more than anyone would give up in order to let Berkman go. Damon is the cheaper alternative.