Johnny Damon is still looking for a job after the Yankees passed on him this offseason. He made it known that he wanted to return to the Bronx, but obviously the Yankees turned to Raul Ibanez instead.
What exactly happened though? Here’s Damon’s take:
“The only conversation was me reaching out to them because obviously at this point in my career, I would like to have some say on who I can and can’t play for it,” Damon told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden of SirusXM. “I just wanted to make sure Cashman knew it wasn’t about the money. Pay me whatever, and I’ll try to help you win a championship.”
At the time the rumors were that he was holding out for $5 million to play next year which rang true considering the only reason he ever left the Yankees in the first place was because he held out for too much money. This seemed like just another go around.
Assuming that what Damon says is true, the Yankees still had their reasons for passing on Damon. For one thing, they needed a DH who can hit righties and Ibanez just does that job better.
Since 2009, Ibanez has a .808 OPS and a .342 wOBA against righties. Those numbers were .747 and .319 last season respectively. Meanwhile, Damon had a .786 OPS and a .343 wOBA since 2009 and those numbers dropped to .715 and .312 last season. Ultimately this has got to be the big reason they wanted Ibanez instead of Damon.
Then there was the defensive thing, but Ibanez is a terrible fielder too so that excuse is flimsy at best. Instead I think it has more to do with roster flexibility. Yankees fans have a certain respect for the veteran Ibanez, but if he sucks then they won’t be sad to see him cut while they watch the Yankees go after a DH on the trade market.
Damon is a different story. He won a championship here. Most fans understand the situation, but there still is a huge chunk who love him and if he’s playing poorly come June it might not be so easy for the Yankees to simply cut their losses and move on, especially as he closes in on 3,000 hits. He’s not going to be able to do it in 2012, but if he’s cut from the team that would pretty much kill his chances at the milestone. It seems like the Yankees probably at least considered this when evaluating their DH this offseason.
Then again, Damon could just be lying to try to make himself look good. Maybe he just mis-read the situation like he did in 2009. He was supposedly looking for $5 million this offseason while the Yankees turned around and signed Ibanez for $1.1.
Either way, Ibanez just hits righties better and he’s the one wearing Pinstripes in 2012. Maybe Damon will get his wish if he doesn’t find a job and the 40-year-old Ibanez proves to be too old.