|A primer for the Johnny Damon saga||08.23.10 at 7:00 pm ET|
Johnny Damon has been claimed off trade waivers by the Red Sox. That we know.
So, what does it all mean? Here is a primer for what you should know regarding the Damon saga as it pertains to the outfielder, his current team, the Tigers, and the Red Sox as we live through the next 48 hours:
THE FIRST REASON WHY THE RED SOX CLAIMED DAMON
The impetus for the Sox’ claiming Damon off trade waivers (which is different than regular waivers) is most likely for defensive purposes, and we don’t mean anything to do with a glove. The Red Sox reside just in front of Tampa Bay and the Yankees in the order of getting a crack at players who are passed through waivers, allowing them to implement the kind of tactic they did in the case of Damon.
If the Red Sox didn’t claim Damon, Tampa Bay would have almost undoubtedly put in a claim since its biggest weakness is one of the 36-year-old’s remaining strengths. He can help an offense. While Tampa Bay is third in the majors in runs scored, this month it has the second-worst team batting average for the month of August among American League clubs.
While Damon wouldn’t be expected to carry a club, for a team like Tampa Bay – which has had their designated hitter position total a .238 batting average with the second-fewest runs scored in the American League – he could help.
Regarding the Yankees, there has already been a precedent of how much Damon can serve as a complementary piece to New York’s already powerful lineup. He would certainly seem to be more valuable to the Rays than the Yankees, but it would be an addition that certainly couldn’t hurt the Yanks.
THE SECOND REASON WHY THE RED SOX CLAIMED DAMON
While Damon isn’t nearly the player he was when he last wore a Red Sox uniform, he could provide some value to the current club. His numbers aren’t bad (.270 batting average, .355 on-base percentage), although he is hitting just .219 in August. But the fit in the Red Sox’ lineup would seemingly be a natural one, either manning the No. 2 spot behind Marco Scutaro, or with the pair switching places with Damon taking the top spot. It should be noted, however, that Damon has only hit leadoff six times this season.
Would he better than the likes of Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava? In some ways, yes. But not enough for the Red Sox to overpay for the outfielder.
Another aspect of Damon’s arrival that might make such a deal worthwhile for the Red Sox is the energy it might supply a team desperate for a boost. That was certainly the vibe relayed by players in the Sox’ clubhouse.
HOW THE RED SOX COULD END UP WITH DAMON
Detroit could simply release Damon to the Red Sox, who would then have to pick up what was left on the outfielder’s one-year, $8 million deal. That move would send the message that the Tigers’ valued saving the money more than they valued collecting either a draft pick (Damon currently projects to be a Type B free agent, meaning he could yield a sandwich-round draft pick if he rejected an arbitration offer and left via free agency) or whatever level of prospect the Red Sox might send in a trade (which seemingly wouldn’t be a substantial talent).
It is worth noting that there is risk associated with offering Damon arbitration, and so it is not certain that a team would make such an offer to him (even if it meant that they missed out on a draft pick). If Damon accepted such an offer, he would likely secure a 2011 contract through arbitration that exceeded his value on the open market. That was the logic behind the Yankees’ decision not to offer Damon arbitration last offseason.
As for a potential trade for Damon, it seems unlikely that the Sox would part with a meaningful prospect for the outfielder, given that the Tigers wouldn’t have the ability to send him to any other clubs. Last year, the Sox parted with a pair of players who did not figure in their future (Chris Carter and Eddie Lora) to acquire Billy Wagner. They likewise parted with a toolsy but expendable prospect (Kris Negron) to acquire shortstop Alex Gonzalez. In both cases, the primary factor motivating the Sox’ trade partners was a desire to shed payroll. Damon may represent a similar instance.
HOW THE RED SOX WOULDN’T END UP WITH DAMON
The Tigers could simply stand by the premise that the draft pick they might receive at the end of the year was more valuable than either the $1.8 million in savings if Damon left, or the level of prospect the Sox would be willing to surrender.
Alternately, Damon could elect to exercise his right to veto a deal to Boston. A player with a no-trade clause in his contract can’t necessarily block a flat-out waiver claim, where the player’s team simply surrenders the player without making a deal. A player can, however, have a non-assignment clause implemented in his contract, which would give him the power to veto any sort of waiver claim or trade. Typically any no-trade clause would have a non-assignment clause built in, which is believed to be the case with Damon.
The Red Sox have gone down this road before when, in 2008, they put in a claim for outfielder Brian Giles, who proceeded to block a trade to the Sox. That, however, was a blocked trade, with the Padres not willing to simply release the outfielder.
Damon expressed uncertainty about whether he would block a trade to the Sox.
“It’s probably as tough of a decision for me to take right now as it was for me to leave Boston for New York. It’s something that fortunately we have some time to think about it,” Damon told reporters in Detroit. “I had a great time playing [in Boston]. But I think once it was apparent that I wasn’t a necessity to re-sign there, it started to get ugly. And that’s why I’ve got to think long and hard.
“I have to think if they do have a strong chance to make the playoffs with the guys beat up there. I have to think long and hard if I’m going to once again be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball [in Boston], but be once again the most hated guy in baseball [in New York]. That’s what it boils down to.”
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