Will Damon fall to the Braves?

Those of you who have been lobbying for the Braves to sign Johnny Damon certainly realize that this isn’t forum for you to receive any encouragement that the club might do so. 

But as time passes and clubs prepare to stage their first full-squad workouts early next week, there’s at least reason to wonder if the Braves are going to eventually learn that Damon is willing to accept the bargain-basement offer that they made more than 10 days ago. 

Having determined that Damon wouldn’t be willing to negotiate in the range of the one year offer — worth as much as $6 million according to the Chicago Sun-Times   — they made last week, the White Sox opted to pull this offer on Friday. 

When asked how this affects his club, Braves GM Frank Wren said, “Nothing has changed on our end.”

While the White Sox remain open to opening talks again before Sunday, it appears the Tigers are once again the clear-cut favorites in this bidding.  But earlier reports that they made a two-year, $14 million offer are now being disputed. 

Still it’s believed the Tigers have offered a one-year deal worth $7 million.  This is an offer that would still easily trump the one the Braves made. 

The Braves offered Damon a one-year contract that included deferred funds.  While the present day value of the offer has never been specified, a Major League source said last week that he believed the offer was for less than $4 million.

This offer was made because Damon expressed a genuine desire to play in Atlanta and because the Braves recognize that the veteran outfielder could possibly benefit them in some ways –  namely serving as a leadoff hitter. 

But if Damon opts to sign elsewhere, the Braves remain confident in Nate McLouth’s abilities to serve in the leadoff role.  McLouth’s inconsistencies at the plate last year seemed to be a product of vision problems that have since been fixed with contact lenses. 

In addition, with the ability to spend the offseason resting the left hamstring that plagued him last year, McLouth has the chance to be the efficient base stealer that he was in 2008, when he was successful with 23 of his 26 stolen base attempts. 

The Braves also remain confident that Jason Heyward will exit camp as their starting right fielder.  As for their left field mix, they believe that Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera will be able to form a successful platoon. 

Still, there remains a chance that the Braves may end up surprised that Damon eventually determines that he’s willing to accept their offer. 

In some ways, it’s as if the Braves have made an early offer during a silent auction and now find themselves possibly in position to win with a figure that they understandably assumed would be trumped.

Of course if they were to emerge the winners in this bidding, they would first have to evaluate the affect it would make on their current outfield plans to truly determine the real cost.     

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8 Comments

Mark, I have been following this story obsessively especially on MLBTradeRumors. If you pay any attention to the comments about this story then you will probably recognize my screen name NYBravosFan10. And I would love to know how you feel personally about this ongoing saga. Because I know most of us are pretty much sick of it and just want an answer. I just think that the opinion of one of the people who contribute their insider information would be fascinating to hear.

chipperfan: I think it’s pretty safe to say the overwhelming majority of the baseball world is tired of twisting and turning with this storyline. Unfortunately, it’s a product of the widespread assumption that he’d end up back with the Yankees.

When that option was erased, Damon was forced to scramble for a job at a time when most teams had already completed their roster reconstruction projects. Now those clubs who still see the value he could bring their club are dealing with limited funds, which obviously haven’t yet satisfied the outfielder’s desired salary.

From the Braves perspective, I understand that Damon could prove beneficial as a leadoff hitter. But at the same time if the younger McLouth’s contacts allow him to get on base more consistently, can’t you argue that he could actually be a more efficient stolen base threat?

And is the benefit great enough to offset the cost incurred by the effect this could have on Heyward or the too-often-overlooked Matt Diaz?

At the end of the day, I think the Braves would shape up nicely without Damon. But if the opportunity actually arises can you pass up the opportunity to get him at the bargain-basement price the Braves are willing to offer?

It’s a tough issue no doubt. If Nate has truly improved his vision and will hit better and steal bases more effectively then I say who needs Damon? I also think that Matt Diaz is perfectly capable of handling a platoon role and if Damon were on the team that would shove him back to the bench assuming Heyward makes the team. But what if we don’t sign Johnny and Heyward doesn’t make the team? I’m all for Matt Diaz but I’m simply not sold on Melky being a reliable every day starter and that’s who our outfield would consist of Diaz, McLouth, Melky. And I think that lineup would also stop us from being a force early in the season and with a team like the Phillies competing with us we would have to be strong right off the bat (no pun intended). If Heyward were to be deemed not ready and we did have Damon then that would leave us with Damon McLouth Melky/Diaz. Seems a little better. I dunno, it’s all so confusing and involves alot of projection, which isn’t always accurate and is giving me a headache haha.

The solution is Shafer. None of the drawbacks(poor defense, declining speed or big money) that both McLouth and Damon suffer. If the Braves wind up with Damon it will literally crash the outfield and any hope of a cohesive unit this year. It messes with Diaz(the most proven commodity in our outfield). It blocks Shafer. It actually blocks Heyward.It makes Melky superfluous. It’s kind of like the stunt FW pulled with SP last season. He saw a need and he kept signing SP’s until he was paying $7M a year for a 5th starter. And don’t even get me going with what they did to Glavine. This outfield was put together without a lot of forethought, but now that it is signed, WHY, GOD WHY, would you throw another dynamic in the middle of it. A 36 yr old, one year wonder who can’t throw and really can’t run anymore. WHAT IS HE THINKING??????? If FW and Scott Boras were playing poker, Frank would be lucky to get home with his underwear.

Here is DOB strumming his own ukelele again:

“Then again, I shouldn?t have been surprised their interest was still being downplayed. After all, right up until the day we first reported here that the Braves made an offer to Damon and had Chipper call him, another media outlet was still insisting that the Braves weren?t actively pursuing him”.

Wonder who he was talking about, hmmmm.

If we get a guy like Damon for a basement offer….what’s the harm. Also, I don’t see a Boras client getting a basement offer so I have never really given serious thought to the idea of Damon as a Brave.

Damon would crowd the outfield even more than it already is. Damon is old, he can’t throw and can’t run. However, Damon is not viewed as someone who has to. He is a hitter. He is a solid hitter that would make our entire lineup better. If you all remember, we missed the playoffs last year because we could not score runs. Damon would be a huge upgrade.
I enjoy reading Dave O’Brien’s articles because he is optimistic. Mark’s articles are more realistic, so it keeps me grounded.
Yet, what I believe is happening is Scott Boras is trying to keep the Chi Sox and Braves name still being mentioned to manipulate a few extra dollars out of the Tigers or another year. I am astonished that the Tigers would fall into Boras’s traps again. He has essentially created a market out of nothing. That is why he is the best at what he does.

I agree with Billreef. Damon would simply block Schafer, who should be targeted as our CF at some point this season. With Schafer and Heyward in CF and RF, think of a McLouth/Diaz platoon in LF? That would be a great platoon.

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