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.

 

 

2008: .303/.375/.461
2009: .282/.365/.489
2010: .271/.355/.401
2011: .261/.326/.418

10 Comments

  • The Doctor says:

    ugh, might has well have lit the cool 1.25 mil on fire. why are we signing a player that the team evaluated in spring training and decided wasn’t a fit? he can’t play in the field, though they’ll play him there anyway, and his signing likely means cunningham is destined for buffalo. i imagine there’s a reasonable chance someone else claims cunningham, which means we will have traded a player for a big helping of nothing, plus johnny damon, who i’d argue is actively worse than nothing.

    assuming this is how it plays out, who plays center in the event that brantley gets injured mid-game? damon? give me a break. can’t wait to see donald flailing around out in CF, like a glorious repeat of luis valbuena’s LF adventures last year.

    i haven’t been this disgusted with one of their roster moves since… oh wait, spring training, when they inexplicably decided to keep dan wheeler, winner of this year’s “pitcher that they bring in when they’ve decided to openly admit they aren’t even attempting to win the game anymore” award, ala 2011 chad durbin.

  • Rick says:

    This feels a lot like making a move just to make a move.

    It seems like Chris Antonetti is trying to mash a square peg into a round hole and hoping Grady comes back and is productive when/if the clause gets activated (which seems like a lose-lose for the Indians – if Damon is playing well he opts out and hopes for more money but if he’s garbage he sucks up a roster spot somewhere and eats salary).

    I know that it’s only $1.25 million (Only…hah), but wouldn’t that money probably be better used investing in the draft or in the international market on younger players?

  • Rick says:

    “dan wheeler, winner of this year’s “pitcher that they bring in when they’ve decided to openly admit they aren’t even attempting to win the game anymore” award, ala 2011 chad durbin.”

    Actually I’ve taken to think of him as the new Eric Plunk :), who it always seemed like the Indians brought in to lose the game!

    • Ryan McCrystal says:

      woah there! I take offense to that. Plunk was one of my favorite relievers on those 90s team. Four straight years with an ERA under 3.00, right in the middle of the steroids era too. He had some rough moments in the playoffs to be sure, but let’s not forget how valuable he was on those teams with some fairly shaky starting rotations

  • joey says:

    i think he should replace brantley,not duncan. put damon in center and lead him off. he cant do any worse than brantley!

  • Norm says:

    Now all we need is to re-sign Manny so we can see wonderful plays like this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5nuY1X8GBY

  • Susan Petrone says:

    I am an eternal optimist, so I’m trying to look at this as a good move. At least it’s SOMEthing. I wrote this post last night, and in the night time, everything looks different. In thinking about the signing this morning, I realized I’m underwhelmed.

  • Pat S says:

    Hopefully Damon can throw the ball farther than Cunningham’s attempt at a relay throw on opening day

  • Brenden Lowery says:

    I am intrigued by this signing personally. I think Damon will be a positive clubhouse influence, and I truly believe he will be on the roster for the duration of the season, even after Sizemore comes back (if he comes back!). Damon, despite his age, put up pretty good power and speed numbers last year for the Rays. I feel as if Damon puts some pressure on Michael Brantley, which he has never had during his career (Come on, his greatest competition in the organization is Ezequiel Carrera; not exactly THREATENING). I think it will be interesting to see how the offense changes, if any, once Damon joins the team.

    And yes, I do not mind beating the dead horse on Damon’s 8 year old throwing arm!

  • The Doctor says:

    @rick – eric plunk, mark wohlers, chad paronto (ugh, just, ugh), rick white, tomo ohka, justin germano all come to mind

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