Johnny Damon Coming Back to AL East?
By Brian Phair
During the 2010 season the Boston Red Sox kicked the tires on good ole’ Johnny Damon to see if he was interested in returning to the AL East where he spent 8 years of his career. He wasn’t interested then, but it now appears that he is now being pursued by his other former AL East employer, the New York Yankees. Multiple sources are reporting that there have been numerous meetings between the 2 sides in an attempt to bring Damon to New York in a back-up outfielder and occasional DH role in 2011. The reports show that there is a divide between the 2 sides, because the 37-year old lefty is looking for a more permanent starting role with a club if possible. If he searches, he can find a suitor willing to give him a shot as a starting outfielder, but is it more important to play every day or be on a competitive winning team? The answer to that question will determine Damon’s next home. (more after the jump)
If I were the Yankees, I would be less concerned with a washed-up, back-up player and more concerned with looking for a starting pitcher or two. Right now, their rotation starts strong with C.C. Sabathia, moves on to inconsistent A.J. Burnett and then enters an unknown world of uncertainty. With Andy Pettitte still unsure about a return, the Yanks are going to rely on Phil Hughes, Sergio Mitre, Ivan Nova and maybe Mark Prior. Hughes has shown signs of brilliance, but is still young. There are always other young gun options on few radars now, but the rotation certainly doesn’t scare many opposing lineups, especially in the AL East. The Yanks lineup is as strong as ever, but if their starting pitchers give up 6+ runs a game, it is going to be difficult to win 95+ games and once again visit the post-season. The off-season is far from over, but with free agent options limited and a minor league system lacking in desirable top prospects, the chances of bringing in another solid starter are shrinking.
That being said, anyone who thinks Brian Cashman is done and there won’t be another pitching move or two doesn’t know the man very well. He has come out publicly saying the options are limited, but he is as deceptive as any other GM in the game and knows how to get a deal done when push comes to shove. The Johnny Damon deal almost feels like an attempt at pissing off Red Sox nation, because although he would be a solid back-up option, the Yanks don’t need offense. They watched the Red Sox make a few huge moves this off-season and they remained fairly idle, adding a role player here and there. To compound the Sox successes, they lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, that until the deal was done, seemed like a sure thing in New York. If the Yanks did nothing the remainder of the off-season they would still be a power in the AL, but somehow would feel more vulnerable and beatable to teams around the MLB.
Time will tell, but I expect at least 1 signing or trade for a veteran starter for the Yanks before Spring Training commences. Cashman knows the offensive power of the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays and if he plans on fielding a team to win, those 57ish games against those guys are going to be a challenge with the arms they have starting games.