Johnny Damon is officially an Indian. And by that I mean it’s official in everyone’s eyes besides the front office. Damon’s been telling ESPN all day he’s a part of the team. Also, multiple reporters have been stating the figures of the deal (1.25 base with 1.4 in plate appearance incentives). @BNightengale went as far as tweeting that the medical reports (aka physical) happened two days ago; one day before the Indians busted out of their slump and scored a whopping six runs #sarcasm. As much as I want to say the signs suggest the front office might be panicking, there are reports that suggest otherwise. The same reports back that up by saying that the Tribe’s been going after Damon for a while now. I’d counter that by saying that someone unemployed would have been willing to accept a job offer if there weren’t any others on the table. Either way, the front office is going to say that this is not a result of a horrendous handful of games out of the gate. That is the biggest problem I have with the front office; they think their fan base is either incredibly stupid or oblivious but that’s another issue for another day.
As far as I’m concerned, the signing isn’t a bad one. Notice I didn’t say “it’s a good one” or “it’s a bad one”. That’s because, the only logical reaction to this is that it just can’t hurt. Our offense sucks and it has for the past 167 games (last year and this year). That’s why I’m going to look past the fact that this means we will have ZERO right handed hitters in our lineup. Which, as I typed, makes me absolutely nauseas. While Damon’s batting average, on base percentage and OPS have all decreased each of the last two years (clearly indicating he’s getting older and worse), he’s still an upgrade over what we’ve got in the outfield right now. I’m going to leave it at that because I hate thinking about what it actually means to this team that already has an uphill battle with the invincible Detroit Tigers off to a sizzling start.
I do want to shift focus to what it means for us. If the reports (aka tweets) are true, Damon will be the starting left fielder with a full no trade clause and an opt-out clause when Grady returns from the DL. I refuse to talk about what Damon means to our outfield. I never thought I’d say that someone is a downgrade defensively to Shelley Duncan but that’s what Damon is. My boss said to me at work today “I know it sounds crazy but I know for a fact that I have a better arm than Johnny Damon.” Well Isaac, that isn’t crazy. Damon could quite easily have the worst arm in the entire MLB and it’s probably not even close. He hasn’t played outfield since bread was packaged pre-sliced so I’m not sure that will be the smoothest transition either.
The no trade clause is somewhat surprising to me, pointless yet surprising. At 38, Damon is looking for a chance to prove he can still play. If he’s able to be effective with the bat and what could prove to be equally important, in the field, he would be a viable trade candidate to a contender should the Tribe fall out of contention themselves. That’s why I don’t think the no trade clause is in play whatsoever. We’d only be moving him to a contender in return for a prospect. Because of this, I find it hard to believe he’ll reject any team in contention (especially since Cleveland hasn’t been a hotspot for free agents).
The opt out clause is the most shocking part of the entire ordeal for me. It’s very creative (kudos Antonetti) and original. Further, I don’t see it coming into play either. If Damon can prove he can play in the outfield, I believe he’ll stay there even when Grady’s playing. In my estimation, the odd man out will be Brantley. His bad start combined with what seems to be a lack of confidence from the front office has got me believing he’s the odd man out. However, if Damon fails to show he can play in the outfield adequately, his value diminishes significantly. He’d be stuck in the DH role which immediately eliminates half the teams (1 more than half but who’s counting). Further, if you look at the contenders in the AL, there aren’t many DH spots available (including the Tribe). The only potentially available teams are the Yankees (who have Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez- wash with Ibanez) and the Rays which makes the most sense to me as they don’t have a true DH; something they probably place a lot of value in due to the versatility it gives them with their lineup. The only true option I see is a contender losing a key piece to injury a la the Tribe with Grady. Hopefully, this will all be moot because Damon will play well enough on the Tribe to keep his starting spot and the Tribe remains in contention.
To wrap up my rambling. I don’t hate the acquisition, I definitely don’t love it and unless he pulls a Fausto, his name is not Carlos Lee. However, he provides an upgrade in left field and possibly more importantly, off the bench where Duncan is most impactful. After five games, I’m absolutely not thrilled with anything on this team besides Derek Lowe’s first outing. Thankfully, there’s 157 left.