Rumors: Yankees and Johnny Damon Talking Comeback

Via Ken Davidoff of Newsday:

While the Yankees’ primary focus remains pitching, they have been communicating with free agent Johnny Damon about a possible return to the Yankees for 2011, Newsday has learned.

Four sources said that Damon and the Yankees were talking about a role in which Damon, 37, would get occasional at-bats as a designated hitter and fill in at leftfield, allowing starting leftfielder Brett Gardner to either rest or shift to fill in for centerfielder Curtis Granderson or rightfielder Nick Swisher.

Damon would prefer a job with more guaranteed playing time, two of the sources said, so a deal is not close and far from guaranteed. But there have been multiple conversations between the two sides.

The Yankees have been looking for a right handed hitting outfielder this offseason, but it looks like they may turn to Damon, a lefty, instead. Damon had a .756 OPS last season with a .740 OPS against lefties so he isn’t a terrible option.

Damon probably wouldn’t be getting a ton of playing time though. Jorge Posada isn’t likely to do much catching at all so he should get a good amount of starts as the DH and their outfielders are all in their prime. So really Damon would only be playing the occasional day off for one of their outfielders or against a tough lefty. That realistically doesn’t sound like more than 50-60 starts.

There is the possibility that this could mean that the Yankees could be looking to deal one of their outfielders for a pitcher and would replace him with Damon. That seems unlikely, but it certainly remains a possibility.

If the Yankees are looking to deal one of their outfielders and replacing him with Damon it doesn’t sound like the best idea though. Damon, 37, had a pretty big decline last year. He went from a .854 OPS with the Yankees in 2009 to a .756 OPS with the Tigers last year. That’s about a 100 point drop. Now he’s a year older and it is possible that his numbers could drop even further.

If his OPS drops to around .700 or lower he could be a big strain on the team considering how bad his defense has gotten. He was barely even an outfielder for the Tigers last year playing 97 games as their DH and only 36 games in the outfield.

It it’s strictly a part-time role where he only plays 50-75 games including a decent amount as the DH it might not be such a terrible deal. Hopefully the Yankees will be smart and only offer him about $2 million or less though. Because if he’s making $4 million or so they’ll be reluctant to cut him if he’s OPS’ing around .650 by June.

What do you think? Should the Yankees re-sign Damon? Or were they smart letting him go a year ago?

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6 Responses to Rumors: Yankees and Johnny Damon Talking Comeback

  1. Mike S. says:

    I think they were smart in letting him go. .282-24-82, OPS+ 118 to .271-8-51 OPS+ 106. Granted Comerica didn't help. The SB about the same. 12 for 12 vs. 11 for 12.

    But he can't play the OF anymore. Not with that weak arm. He's now 37. Why have three lefty hitting OF with the other a switch-hitter?

    I'd rather give Brandon Laird, 23, a shot, and at less money. He went to the Arizona Fall League to learn the corner outfield spots. If his bat proves worthy and he proves he can handle the corner OF, you have a righty bat that can fill in at 1b/3b/Lf and Rf. He'd then be more versatile than Damon.

    .291-23-90 at AA last year, then .246-2-12 at AAA. Combined .281-25-102. I don't know if he needs more AAA at bats, but I'll take the combination of youth, more pop, less expensive and more versatile from Laird than what Damon might provide.

  2. Susan says:

    No more geezers, please. The only old Yankee I want at this point is Mo, because he still produces. Posada, Jeter, Damon, no thanks. I loved Damon when he played here but it's time for us to stop living in the past. Stop rewarding guys for things they did years ago. I mean, what's next? David Wells? Bernie? Come on.

    And I don't mean to be constantly negative but why is it that EVERY time the Yankees supposedly have any interest whatsoever in someone it's always "negotiations are very preliminary" or " interested but not close to signing him" ? Why does everything have to move at a snail's pace with this team? I love the Yanks to death and they are definitely the most important thing in my life, but I'm just absolutely ….ing frustrated out of my mind. I don't care what he's asking, if they let Rafeal Soriano sign elsewhere they've committed a grave error. Mo's probably going to retire after this two year deal and this would most likely solve the search for our next closer. Unless of course some of you still think Joba has what it takes, which by now should be obvious he doesn't.

    Come on Yankees, let's get with it!!!

  3. Dante says:

    Cashman continues to dredge up the dead. Let it go and move on for real.

    Signing Damon may have been a Splash in December '05 but this December it reeks of desperation.

    Cashman shot his wad waiting and losing out on Lee. Epstein, has shrewdly outmaneuvered him and pre-positioned his Sox ahead on paper and likely on the field.

    With all his years at GM, Cashman still doesn't grasp it. Last Off-Season was an atrocity. Hard to believe but he's outdone even that pitiful performance so far this year.

  4. bruce says:

    I think Damon is a good clubhouse guy and can hit better in Yankee Stadium. I think he's real good insurance, if someone gets hurt or traded. I would sign hit to anything less then 5 million.