The Indians’ acquisition of Johnny Damon has reportedly been finalized. The deal is a one-year contract for $1.25 million in base salary with $1.4 million in performance bonuses. There is a full no-trade clause, which isn’t too unusual for a veteran free agent. The oddity is an out clause that will allow Damon to become a free agent on a “specified date” after Grady Sizemore returns from the disabled list. It seems less like signing a proven bat than borrowing one.
Things to Like about This Deal
* The Indians front office is proactively seeking and signing someone to bolster the offense.
* Everything I’ve read about Damon is that he’s a good influence in the clubhouse.
* Damon’s career numbers are a solid .286/.353/.435 (BA/OBP/SLG).
* Even though he’s nearing the end of his career, Damon still had a 2.8 WAR last season with the Rays
* Damon stole 19 bases on 25 attempts during 2011, so he still has some wheels
Things to Not Like about This Deal
* Damon’s numbers have gone down almost uniformly over the past four seasons. That’s not a happy trajectory for a team that desperately needs an offensive boost.
* He didn’t sign with a club earlier and missed Spring Training. He says he’s been playing soccer, running, throwing, and keeping in shape and would only need a few days to get ready to play. Damon has always seemed pretty durable and consistent, so this one might be a wash.
* He’s a left-handed hitter in a lineup that’s already lefty-top heavy.
* He’s going to replace/platoon with Shelley Duncan, who is hitting .294 and is one of the few guys on the team who has been hitting.
* Damon’s out clause makes him a free agent on a specified date after Grady Sizemore comes off the disabled list. If Grady doesn’t come of the DL in June or immediately re-injures himself, then we’re up the proverbial excrement-filled creek without a hired gun.
We Need Each Other
We need offense. Johnny Damon has 2,723 career hits in his 17-year career and needs 277 hits to get to the magic 3,000 hit club. He doesn’t have to spend the entire season with us. We’re borrowing him from a team to be named later. Damon needs the Indians just long enough to convince another team that he still has some good baseball left in him. We need Damon to jump-start our offense and be an informal hitting tutor in the clubhouse (kind of like Jim Thome was last year upon his short return to the team).
This deal is pretty much a win-win for both sides. The only loser will be whoever gets an all-expense-paid trip to Colubmus, Ohio, in order to make room for Damon on the roster.
So Johnny, welcome to Cleveland. Feel free to grow the hair long again, we won’t mind.