For over a week, there was silence on the Johnny Damon front. The Super Bowl had come and gone, typically a quiet time in baseball’s Hot Stove League, and no word from any reputable source about any on-going negotiations between the Tigers and the free agent outfielder.
All that changed yesterday afternoon.
Multiple reports from multiple sources (I’ll cite a few) had the Braves making a one-year offer to Damon, somewhere in the $4MM area, with as much as half of that money deferred. Both Jon Heyman and the Fox Boys indicated at that time that the Tigers were still the more aggressive team, and Ken Davidoff said the Tigers were prepared to top the Braves offer by about half a million. Though the prevailing wisdom was the Tigers were still looking at a one-year deal.
Word then came from former Nats GM Jim Bowden and then Jon Paul Morosi that the WhiteSox had entered into the Damon bidding, and all Hell broke loose.
Some things to be considered at this point: For all the great work that Heyman seems to think he does, he has a reputation as being a bit of a mouthpiece for Scott Boras. So, when dealing with a Heyman report involving a Boras client, use caution when thinking about the numbers. I’m not saying he’s wrong, I just feel better when I heard it from another source as well.
At some point in the evening, it became apparent that the Tigers were at least considering making two separate offers to Damon, a one-year, $7MM deal that Mark Anderson of TigsTown tweeted was on the table, in addition to the two-year offer mentioned earlier.
At this point, one had to wonder how much the WhiteSox interest was affecting the Tigers. For the better part of a week, the Damon sweepstakes was a two-horse race, and the Braves were a distant second. Dave Dombrowski simply didn’t have to raise his offer higher than $5MM and everyone figured the Tigers would get their man. As soon as Kenny Williams got involved, the Tigers’ offer reportedly went up.
Then, from Rosenthal this morning, the WhiteSox weren’t ever actively involved, but were merely kicking the tires. If Damon were to ask to better than $4MM, he would be out the price range in Chicago.
So where does that leave us?
We know that Damon has been extolling the virtues of the Motor City, proclaiming his love for Octopus and the RedWings. He have heard he wants to play in Detroit, we know Lakeland is a short drive from his Orlando home.
What we also know is that Mr. Illitch will spend money on star players, and that even at $7MM next season, the Tigers’ payroll would come in very close to last year’s. We know the Tigers are open to improving their offense, as they should be, and that Damon would fill the most obvious need in the lineup.
I have made the case for passing on Damon and moving on to Felipe Lopez. I actually held out hope that both could be signed for about the $7MM the Tigers are offering Damon by himself. If the Tigers held to their guns and managed to snag him for $4.5 or so, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think they could get Lopez for $2.5MM as well.
But if the offer is $7MM, I have to think the Tigers will get Damon and their spending will be done. The lineup will look much better with Damon at the top, but the logjam in the outfield will need to be addressed.
We will see. It could happen as early as today.