Results tagged ‘ Johnny Damon ’
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.
As Spring Training nears, there’s more reason to wonder if Johnny Damon will eventually accept what the Braves are willing to offer. But for now, insiders still feel like the veteran outfielder will end up signing elsewhere.
Early this afternoon a Major League source confirmed the Braves have made a one-year offer to Damon.
UPDATED: Financial terms still haven’t been learned. But a Major League League source said that even with the deferred fund accounted for, the offer was for less than $4 million.
This is the primary reason the Tigers or late entry into the Damon sweepstakes still appear to be more likely suitors for the 36-year-old outfielder.
Chipper Jones didn’t confirm whether the club has asked him to serve in the recruiting role that he often takes when in pursuit of a top-flight free agent. But he said that he could see the benefit of bringing the veteran outfielder to Atlanta to serve as a legit leadoff hitter.
“I think he’d be a good addition,” Chipper Jones said. “He’s a guy with experience and he provides us depth at the outfield position.”
The addition of Damon could facilitate a trade or minimize the impact that Jason Heyward could have during this upcoming season.But for now, it doesn’t appear the Braves are making a serious push for Damon.
Well it looks like National Signing Day will conclude without Johnny Damon knowing where he’s going to be playing this year. But it still certainly appears that Atlanta isn’t in his immediate future.
Instead of taking the negligent route of saying there is absolutely no way the Braves eventually sign Damon, I will acknowledge that this landscape could be quickly altered if one of Atlanta’s outfielders were to suffer an injury during the early days or weeks of camp.
Or maybe there will come a time when Damon would be willing to accept the $1-2 million the Braves might be willing to offer. But this seems doubtful given the likelihood that the Blue Jays or Tigers would seemingly be willing to provide something greater.
After a brief exchange with a team source again this morning, it was evident that the Braves still aren’t actively pursuing Damon.
Placed in the same situation two years ago, when the 36-year-old Damon still had the youthful legs that provided him great range in center and the ability to sweep bags with regularity, the Braves might have shown some interest.
Of course the price tag wouldn’t have been the same either.
At the end of the day, the only reason the Braves would have interest in Damon is to allow him to serve as the leadoff hitter that they lack. But while hitting .284 with a .349 on-base percentage and .446 slugging percentage on the road last year, did he really provide the confidence that he will be productive in this role.
Another alarming stat comes from the fact that he attempted to steal just 12 bases last year. Over the course of the previous three seasons, he had averaged 34 attempts. Was this a sign of age or just a product of the fact that he had been dropped down one spot, out of the leadoff role in a Yankees lineup that had plenty of middle-of-the-lineup power?
While hitting in the leadoff spot last year, Nate McLouth hit .260 with a .354 OBP and .426 SLG. In his 82 plate appearances as hit team’s first batter, McLouth hit .173 with a .244 OBP and .320 SLG. In 183 PAs leading off an inning, he hit .204/.273/.365.
These numbers don’t provide reason to believe McLouth is capable of serving as a consistently reliable table setter. But the gritty outfielder serves as the club’s best source of speed. Without the hamstring problems he battled during the final two months of the season, he would have likely swiped more than 25 bags.
Because of his speed, it makes sense to keep McLouth in the leadoff spot. Likewise, because of his ability to hit in clutch situations, it makes sense to continue providing Yunel Escobar an opportunity to hit in the fifth or sixth spots of the order.
But I think you can also argue that it makes the most sense to put Escobar in the leadoff role. Remember this argument proved futile over the course of the past two years, when Kelly Johnson’s name was being placed in the leadoff role.
In 75 career starts as a leadoff hitter, Escobar has batted .309 with a .371 OBP and .428 SLG. In the 75 PAs he’s totaled as his club’s first batter of the game, these stats are .411/.427/ .616. In 360 PAs leading off an inning, these numbers are .312/.364/.423.
Given that Escobar has hit .337 in his career with runners in scoring position, it would be tough to put him in a spot where he’d often come to the plate with the bases empty. But at the same time, he provides reason to wonder if he would be the club’s best catalyst at the top of the lineup.
My Projected Lineup w/ Escobar in the leadoff spot:
Separated at birth? A few years ago, I asked Frank Wren if anybody had ever told him he looked and sounded like ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. At that time, he told me they both sent their kids to suburban Atlanta’s Landmark Christian Academy.
Since then, I’ve seen fewer physical resemblences. But when I awoke this morning with the television on, I could have sworn I heard Frank talking to me about something that Peyton Manning or Drew Brees was going to do this weekend.
Listen to Mort as this week progresses and tell me if I need to get my ears checked. Here’s a clip of Frank’s voice.