Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What about Johnny?

There's a free agent leftfielder who hit .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI last year.  Some teams have kicked the tires on him, but ultimately no one has been very aggressive in trying to sign him.  Why not?

His team last year considered re-signing him, but not for the length or the money the player's agent wanted.  Over the last three years he hit .285 with an on-base percentage of .364 in addition to 53 home runs and 216 RBI.  Not bad.  The downside? He'll be 36 this year.

I think it's pretty obvious I'm talking about Johnny Damon (especially because of the picture!), a key part of the Yankees' 27th World Series crown.  Scott Boras has wanted a multi-year deal for Damon worth about $12 million a year.  The problem is that no one seems interested in paying that.  In addition to the Yankees, the Braves and Giants had expressed interest in Damon.  With the Giants signings of Mark DeRosa and Bengie Molina, it's likely they're out of the running.  The Yankees have claimed they only have $2 million left to spend, but many experts contend that's still Damon's most likely destination. 

What we're seeing with Damon is part of a larger movement as teams seem to be moving away from older players towards younger, more athletic (and cheaper) players.  We saw it last year with Bobby Abreu signing for one year and $5 million with the Angels.  This year, Hideki Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero signed similarly valued contracts.  Despite the productivity of such older players, teams have started to realize that a decline is inevitable and they aren't offering long-term, expensive deals anymore.  I fully expect Damon to be on someone's roster by spring training and probably for a similar deal.

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