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Olney on D&H: Expect Damon back in Boston

08.24.10 at 12:53 pm ET
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ESPN.com senior writer Buster Olney appeared on the Dale & Holley Show on Tuesday to discuss what player movement might occur between now and the Aug. 31 deadline for waiver deals. In particular, he addressed the immediate futures of two former Red Sox outfielders: Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.

Olney said that he expects that, despite Damon’s initial misgivings about returning to the Red Sox (who were awarded a waiver claim of the outfielder on Monday), he will be convinced to return to the team for whom he became an icon from 2002-05 and then a villain while a member of the Yankees from 2006-09.

“Knowing what kind of a teammate he is, knowing that he’s a good guy, a genial guy, once he starts getting the text messages and phone calls from the people he played with in Boston, I think he’ll be sold on the idea eventually of going back to Boston,” said Olney. “It’s fairly clear he has some hurt feelings about how it ended when he signed with the Yankees. I think the one thing those guys are probably going to tell him is, look, if you come back, the first time he gets in the batter’s box, let’s say on Friday night in Tampa Bay and all those Red Sox fans are at the Trop, they’re going to give him an ovation. They’re not going to boo him.

“And we know this, too: No matter when he comes back, a reunion in 2014, fans in Boston are always going to love him for how important he was to that team in 2004. So, I think he’s going to be talked into it. I might be completely wrong, but that’s my gut feeling.”

While Olney said that part of the incentive for the Sox in claiming Damon was to keep him away from the Rays and Yankees, he also would have value to the Sox. Olney described the Sox’ motivation in claiming the outfielder as a 60-40 split between the idea that he could help and the opportunity to block their rivals from acquiring him.

As for Ramirez, Olney anticipates that the mercurial slugger will be put on waivers, and that the White Sox might claim him. That said, if he is not claimed by Chicago (a team on the fringes of the pennant race), he thinks there is a good chance that Ramirez will return to the AL East as a member of the Rays.

“If he gets through waivers — and I don’t think the Yankees are going to claim him, just guessing, I don’t think the Red Sox will put in a claim — if he gets through waivers, I think he’€™ll finish August in a uniform with the Tampa Bay Rays, because I think they would be aggressive so long as they didn’t have to take on that whole salary,” said Olney. “The Dodgers are clearly frustrated with him. You talk to people in that organization, they’€™re fed up in the same way and for the same reasons as you heard from the Red Sox organization in 2008. They’re ready to move him out. But there’s no question that when he plays, he hits. … He’€™s still a threat. You know that if he were to walk up to the plate in the postseason, opposing managers, opposing pitchers would absolutely fear him. I don’t think there’s any question that he would make the Tampa Bay Rays better.”

Other items of note:

–Olney believes the Sox remain in contention for a postseason berth, but that their hopes of the playoffs are “hanging by a thread.” He suggested that the Sox need to make up ground in every remaining series they have against the Rays and Yankees.

–Olney suggested that Ramirez, right now, might be looking at a deal in the vicinity of $800,000 with performance incentives for the 2011 season, but that with a strong final month for a contender, he could get something along the lines of a $4-5 million guarantee. That line of thinking, he suggested, will play into the decision-making of any team that considers a deal for him.

–His understanding is that both Damon and Ramirez have contract language that would prevent them from being assigned to a new team via a waiver claim (in the absence of an actual trade).

–Olney believes the Sox are unlikely to move Jacoby Ellsbury in a trade in the coming offseason, since to move him now would represent a sell-low proposition.

“I kind of liken his situation to what the Rays have gone through the last couple years with B.J. Upton,” said Olney. “The Red Sox, better than anybody, understand what Jacoby Ellsbury is capable of. … If they were to put him out on the market, they probably wouldn’€™t get anything close to what they perceive to be fair value in return.”

–He described Clay Buchholz as a legitimate Cy Young contender, noting the tremendous confidence with which the pitcher now seems to be performing. On the other end of the spectrum, Olney has heard from talent evaluators who suggest that the five-year, $82.5 million deal for John Lackey and the four-year, $68 million extension signed by Josh Beckett — both deals will run through 2014 — could become an issue for the Sox, based on what both pitchers have done this year.

“I’€™ve heard from people with other organizations that they think the back end of those contracts have a chance to be ugly,” said Olney. “Investing $17 million a year for the foreseeable future, it’€™s kind of hanging in the balance, whether these deals work for Boston or against them.”

To listen to the complete interview, click here.

Read More: buster olney, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, john lackey
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