Tag:Johnny Damon
Posted on: January 26, 2012 4:01 pm

What's next for Tigers? Maybe Cespedes

The Prince Fielder signing should push the Tigers' 2012 payroll up over $130 million.

Is there any money left?

Could be, but the Tigers are unlikely to spend it on a full-time designated hitter, or on a fifth-starter candidate who would require a guaranteed major-league contract.

They might, according to sources, still try to spend it on Yoenis Cespedes.

While the team has basically ruled out going after someone like Johnny Damon or Edwin Jackson, the Tigers remain interested in Cespedes, the 26-year-old Cuban outfielder who became a free agent Wednesday. The Tigers have been among the teams showing the most interest in Cespedes, and have had conversations about him with agent Adam Katz.

Cespedes, if he proves ready for the big leagues right away, could play left field, with Delmon Young moving to more of a full-time DH role. For now, the Tigers plan to have Young share left field and DH with Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and Clete Thomas, with Fielder and Miguel Cabrera also seeing a few days as DH.

The Tigers had worked hard to try to add another starter before turning their attention to Fielder late last week. They met Roy Oswalt's asking price, sources said, only to be told by Oswalt that he wouldn't agree to come to Detroit (even after a recruiting phone call from Justin Verlander).

The focus now is on veteran starters who would require less of a commitment, with the possibility that the Tigers don't add anyone before spring training begins. They could then audition Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly and others, and then search the trade market if they're not satisfied with what they see.

We've already seen that they're willing to be bold, and that the owner is willing to spend.

When Mike Ilitch told his baseball people that he was willing to make the huge commitment to Fielder, he explained it simply.

"I think the city needs it," Ilitch said. "I think we need it. I think our players need it."

Posted on: January 23, 2012 1:49 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 1:57 pm

Tigers patient on Victor Martinez replacement

It's been almost a week since the Tigers found out that Victor Martinez would likely be lost for the season with a knee injury, and the team still doesn't have a replacement.

What's taking so long?

Actually, it won't be a surprise if the Tigers' search for a Martinez replacement goes on quite a while longer, perhaps even into the 2012 season.

While the Tigers seem to have some interest in Raul Ibanez, Hideki Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero, and less in Johnny Damon, none of the possible Martinez replacements would provide the Tigers with exactly what Martinez gave them -- a quality switch hitter who gives Miguel Cabrera protection in the batting order.

The other option would be for the Tigers to stick with the players they already have, and to figure out as the year goes along whether they need to spend their resources on a designated hitter to replace Martinez or on filling other needs.

As of now, the Tigers are also without a definite fifth starter. They tried to deal for Gio Gonzalez, but lost out when they wouldn't include both Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos in the same deal. They showed interest in free-agent Roy Oswalt (even having Justin Verlander put in a recruiting call), but were told that he was not interested in them (and seems headed for either the Red Sox or Cardinals). The Tigers have been linked by some to Matt Garza of the Cubs, but a Garza deal seems a real longshot.

While the Tigers haven't ruled out adding a veteran starter later in the winter, they now seem willing to go to spring training and pick a fifth starter there (with Turner one of the candidates).

Even without Martinez, and without a clear fifth starter, the Tigers should enter spring as the clear favorite in the American League Central. Barring further injuries, they should at the very least be able to remain in contention for the first half of the season, then look to make another midseason deal like last year's trade for Doug Fister.

Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:36 pm

3 to Watch: The Yankees' chance edition

NEW YORK -- The Phillies haven't won since they clinched the National League East.

The Tigers have lost three of five since they clinched the American League Central.

And Thursday, the Yankees played a Triple-A lineup, committed four errors and lost 15-8 to the Rays, the day after clinching the AL East.

What happens next will be more interesting.

What happens next is Yankees-Red Sox, giving the Yankees a chance to push their biggest rivals a few steps further towards what would be an embarrassing collapse.

Could the Yankees possibly sleepwalk through three more days, at the risk of giving the Red Sox life?

Johnny Damon says no.

As the Rays designated hitter, Damon is an interested party. But as an ex-Red Sox and ex-Yankee, he understands the dynamics of the rivalry, too. And he fully believes that whether the Yankees say it publicly or not, they want the Red Sox out of the playoffs.

"Yeah, because it's definitely not a good story if the Red Sox beat them in the playoffs," Damon said. "If the Rays beat them, it may not be acceptable, but it's more palatable.

"And they've matched up well against us. We haven't really done anything to show them otherwise."

The Yankees have been in an unusual spot all week, in a sense having control over who wins the AL wild card and who doesn't. For three games against the Rays, they could pretend that they were solely focused on winning the division themselves.

Now that they're in, they'll claim that they're solely focused on setting themselves up for the playoffs. Yes, catcher Russell Martin said Thursday, "I hate the Red Sox," but everywhere else in the Yankee clubhouse they were insisting they don't care who else gets in.

We'll see.

We'll see what lineups manager Joe Girardi runs out there the next three days, and then for three games at Tampa Bay. We'll see what intensity the Yankees play with.

Girardi is absolutely right that his main objective should be to get his team ready. He's right not to start ace CC Sabathia, since Sabathia wouldn't line up well for Game 1 if he starts again during the regular season.

"Our responsibility is to our club," Girardi said Thursday. "That's the bottom line. I have to make sure our guys are healthy, rested and ready to go [for the first playoff game] next Friday."

Hard to blame him for that.

The Phillies did the same thing on the final weekend of last season against the Braves, who were still fighting for a wild-card spot. On the final day of the season, in a game the Braves had to win, Cole Hamels started but pitched just two innings.

The Phils will likely take the same approach next week in Atlanta. The Rangers may do the same in Anaheim, if they clinch the AL West before their series against the Angels begins Monday.

The difference for the Yankees is that each of their final six games could influence the wild-card race.

The difference is that the Yankees are playing the Red Sox, with a chance to help knock them out.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Braves, as colleague Scott Miller pointed out, have been collapsing almost as badly as the Red Sox have. They got a break Thursday, when the Cardinals collapsed in the ninth inning against the Mets, but they know that the Cards have a seeming schedule advantage with their final six games against the Cubs and Astros. The Braves will figure they need to win, beginning with Braves at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park. The Nats just swept the Phillies, and have won nine of their last 11. And this is a Strasburg game.

2. Yes, it's true, the Red Sox were worried enough about their pitching that they contacted the Mets at one point to try to make a late trade for Chris Capuano. It's true, after starting Jon Lester Friday, the Sox are stuck with no better choices than Tim Wakefield and John Lackey the rest of the weekend. Lackey has a 10.70 ERA in September. Wakefield is at 4.95, heading into a likely meeting with equally bad A.J. Burnett in Red Sox at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. There are other games that matter more, with the Angels at home against the A's, the Cardinals at home against the Cubs, the Rangers trying to clinch at home against the Mariners and the Diamondbacks trying to clinch at home against the Giants. But Justin Verlander is going for his 25th win, so 3 to Watch has no choice but to close with Orioles at Tigers, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park. No pitcher has won 25 since Bob Welch won 27 for the 1990 A's, and Welch was the first since Steve Stone won 25 for the 1980 Orioles. The last Tiger to win 25: Denny McLain, when he won 31 in 1968. Verlander, who at this point has to be the American League MVP, is 20-2 with a 1.75 ERA over his last 22 starts, holding opponents to a .188 batting average and a .529 OPS. The last guy with an OPS that low and enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title was Alfredo Griffin, in 1990.

Posted on: April 26, 2011 8:31 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 8:34 pm

The NL All-Star ballot -- with 2 Sky Sox on it

They tell me this is the National League All-Star ballot.

Funny, because I keep finding guys from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on it.

Yeah, there's Ian Stewart, the Triple-A Sky Sox third baseman. And Brad Emaus, the new Sky Sox second baseman.

And yes, this is the National League All-Star ballot.

These things happen, and there's not that much baseball can do about it. The Rockies sent Stewart to Triple-A on April 19. The Mets dumped Emaus the same day, returning the Rule 5 pick to the Blue Jays, who then traded him to the Rockies.

The NL All-Star ballot also includes Brandon Belt, who began the year as the Giants first baseman, but was sent down to Triple-A Fresno on April 20 when Cody Ross came off the disabled list.

To put Belt on the ballot, the Giants had to leave Ross -- their 2010 playoff hero -- off of it. Aubrey Huff is listed as one of the three outfielders, along with Pat Burrell and Andres Torres.

Each team is allowed one player at each position.

The ballot was put together late enough so that Manny Ramirez is not on it. Johnny Damon is listed as the Rays' designated hitter, with Sam Fuld on the ballot in the outfield.

All-Star balloting began Tuesday, and continues through June 30.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 9:33 pm

Damon could help Rays -- as a DH only

Johnny Damon can help the Rays, as a top of the order hitter and as a clubhouse presence.

But how are they going to fit Damon and Manny Ramirez in the same lineup?

They can't be planning to play Damon in the outfield.

Uh, apparently they are.

The Rays agreed to terms with both Damon and Ramirez on Friday. They certainly won't put it this way, but they signed two designated hitters on the same day!

Damon's outfield skills have declined to the point that the Tigers barely allowed him to play there after the first week of June last year, and not at all for the final six weeks of the season. Damon never had a strong arm, but he's now barely adequate in the outfield.

Ramirez obviously isn't an outfielder at this point in his career, either. And the word is that the Rays intend to try Damon in the outfield, at least until they're willing to put young Desmond Jennings out there.

Tiger players loved having Damon on their team, and he no doubt contributed to their first-half success. Damon has been a winner throughout his career, playing on seven playoff teams, including two that won World Series.

But at age 37, Damon's on-field value is nowhere close to what it once was, because he is basically a DH with limited power (8 home runs in 539 at-bats last year).

Ramirez could have more power, even at age 38, even though he hit only 9 home runs in 265 at-bats last year. The bigger question with him is whether the Rays can keep him focused.

Maybe Damon can help. As hard as that is, he has a better chance of success there than he does in left field.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 15, 2010 8:56 pm

3 to watch: The Deadline Day edition

If you care even a little bit about the baseball draft, then you'll hear the words "above slot" plenty in the hours leading up to Monday night's midnight signing deadline. As in, "Team A beat the deadline by agreeing to sign their first-round draft pick by going above slot on the bonus."

What it means is fairly simple: While baseball doesn't have an official slotting system for draft-pick bonuses, it has in recent years tried to institute an unofficial system. Since it's unofficial, the smart teams (or smart owners, anyway) have more or less ignored it, and thus benefitted by signing better players than they should have gotten, based on where they were drafting.

And here's why you should care:

Cliff Lee vs. David Price, Monday night at Tropicana Field, that's why. Two of the leading candidates for the American League Cy Young Award, two of the best teams in baseball, and two teams who wouldn't have those pitchers if they hadn't gone "above slot."

The Rays drafted Price first overall in 2007. Baseball had designated a $3.6 million bonus for that slot, according to research by Baseball America . To sign Price, the Rays had to give him a six-year major-league contract, including a $5.6 million bonus.

And Lee? The Rangers were able to trade for him only because they could offer Justin Smoak to the Mariners. The Rangers paid Smoak a $3.5 million bonus in 2008, well above the $1.99 slot figure recommended by baseball (again, according to Baseball America ).

It's the same thing the Tigers did to acquire Miguel Cabrera, who might have been the American League's Most Valuable Player this year if his team hadn't fallen apart around him. The Tigers got Cabrera only because they went above slot to sign Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, who became the two key pieces in the trade with the Marlins.

According to Baseball America , of the 15 first-round signings that had been announced by early Sunday evening, only three were above slot (and none of the three were far above slot). But the strong assumption is that most of the remaining 17 first-rounders will sign by the deadline, and that all that do sign at the last minute will get more than what baseball recommends.

The most interesting case, of course, involves top pick Bryce Harper, whose contract with the Nationals -- if he agrees to one -- will be for much more than the $4 million slot recommendation.

You don't need to understand all the details to know that you want your favorite team to buck the system. A partial list of above-slot signings from the last three years includes not just Price and Smoak, but also all these guys whose names you might recognize (thanks to Baseball America for help with the research):

Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Mike Leake, Mike Minor, Rick Porcello, Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Gordon Beckham and Madison Bumgarner, among others. Go back a few more years, and you can add in Mark Teixeira and Jon Lester, among others.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Lee vs. Price could be a Game 1 playoff matchup, and not just the matchup in Rangers at Rays, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field , in the first of a three-game series. The Rangers just got done playing the other two top teams in the American League East, splitting two games with the Yankees and winning two of the three from the Red Sox. We've long contended that the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are the three best teams in the league, and maybe in all of baseball. The Rangers are in the process of proving they belong in that group, too.

2. Johnny Damon plays at Yankee Stadium this week for the first time since the World Series, and Austin Jackson plays there for the first time ever. If the Yankees didn't have baseball's best record (and if the Tigers hadn't slipped badly out of the race in the American League Central), the homecoming would bring on massive second-guessing of the Yankees' offseason strategy. Curtis Granderson, who was traded for Jackson and basically brought in to take over for Damon, is having a poor season (his OPS ranks 28th among the 33 major-league outfielders with 350 or more plate appearances). While Damon, Jackson and Granderson will be the week's focal point, the series also includes an interesting pitching matchup of Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia, in Tigers at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium .

3. Every visiting team hated the Metrodome, but the White Sox may have hated it more than anyone else. They definitely wouldn't have liked the idea of going there this week, down three games to the Twins in the AL Central race. But are they any better now that the Metrodome is gone, heading into a series that includes White Sox at Twins, Thursday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field ? Perhaps not. The Sox are 2-4 at Target Field, and Thursday starter Mark Buehrle lost his only start there (despite giving up just three runs in an eight-inning complete game). Buehrle is 0-5 in six starts in Minnesota since the start of the 2008 season.
Posted on: February 20, 2010 6:33 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2010 7:01 pm

Damon to sign with Tigers

Johnny Damon is going to be a Tiger.

Two major-league sources confirmed to CBSSports.com that the team and Damon have reached agreement on a one-year, $8 million deal, pending a physical, giving the Tigers a strong left-handed presence at the top of the batting order and finally giving Damon a home after a long and sometimes strange winter.

Damon gets a contract for significantly less than the $13 million he made each of the last four years with the Yankees, but for more than the $6 million the Yankees were eventually talking about offering him last month. The Tigers, meanwhile, get a hitter who has scored 100 runs 10 times in his career and has been part of World Series championship teams with both the Red Sox and the Yankees.

The Tigers were lacking in left-handed hitters, and with the trade of Curtis Granderson and the departure of Placido Polanco as a free agent, they were also looking weak at the top of the lineup. Damon batted second for the Yankees in 2009, but he has been a leadoff hitter for much of his career.

The 36-year-old Damon isn't a perfect fit for the Tigers, because at this stage of his career he is no longer a good outfielder. Between Damon and Carlos Guillen, the Tigers will fill the left field and designated hitter spots.

Damon said many times last season that he wanted to remain with the Yankees, but he also let out word that he was looking for a multi-year deal for the same money he made last year. The negotiations never seemed to go well, and in the end the two sides couldn't even agree on whether there was ever a true offer on the table.

At other times during the winter, Damon seemed headed for the A's, the Braves and the White Sox. But in recent weeks the Tigers were always considered the favorite, in large part because agent Scott Boras was able to convince owner Mike Ilitch that Damon could be make the Tigers a playoff team.

The Damon signing will send the Tiger payroll to nearly $130 million, shockingly high for a team that plays in an economically depressed city and spent the first part of the winter trying to cut back. There will be those who will wonder why the Tigers didn't simply retain Granderson, a younger player and much better defender who will make just $5.5 million in 2010 under a reasonable contract that runs through 2013.

The Tigers would argue that the Granderson deal, which also sent pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks, allowed them to fill other needs (such as closer and shortstop). The other huge factor is Ilitch, who is 80 years old, ultra-competitive, and a veteran of dealings with Boras that have for the most part worked out well for the Tigers (Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers).

Besides, by signing Damon for just one year, the Tigers have retained plenty of payroll flexibility beginning next winter. The team has only about $55 million committed for 2011 contracts, with bad deals for Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and others set to expire after this year.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 1, 2010 6:16 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2010 6:20 pm

Making the Tigers a winner

Johnny Damon says he can make the Tigers a winner.

Actually, Scott Boras said that, quoting Damon, in a story in the Detroit News . But I don't doubt that Damon said it, and I don't doubt that he believes it.

"I can make the Detroit Tigers a winner," Damon said, according to Boras.

I'm not so sure. Damon would make the Tigers a little better (as well as making them more expensive).

But here's what it's going to take to make the Tigers a winner:

1. The rotation is going to have to be as good as the Tigers think it is. That means Justin Verlander needs to be at near-Cy Young level, that Rick Porcello needs to be as good as he was as a 20-year-old rookie, and that Jeremy Bonderman needs to come back after basically missing a year and a half.

2. Magglio Ordonez is going to have to hit a lot more like he did in the second half of 2009 than in the first half, and he's going to have to drive in a lot more than the 50 runs he drove in last year.

3. Second baseman Scott Sizemore and center fielder Austin Jackson are going to have to show they can hold their own in the big leagues.

4. Carlos Guillen is going to have to stay healthy, and he's going to have to show that he's not already getting old.

5. Brandon Inge is going to need to show that his second-half dropoff last year was mostly due to his bad knees, and also that those knees are going to be a lot sturdier after surgery.

You tell me all five of those things happen, and I'll tell you the Tigers can be a winner, with or without Johnny Damon. You tell me four of the five happen (assuming the rotation success is one of the four), and I'll tell you the Tigers have a real chance to win.

They could win, despite all the dire talk at the start of the winter. They need a lot to go right.

Do they also need Johnny Damon? I'm not so sure they do. The way I understand it, they're not so sure, either, although they have had conversations about adding Damon.

He's not a perfect fit. At this stage of his career, he's a bad outfielder, and while he was very good offensively in 2009, his numbers were inflated by hitting in a great Yankee lineup and in a ballpark that fit him so well. And while Damon should spend some time as a designated hitter, the Tigers already have other players who need to DH.

I can't say he makes the Tigers a winner. But I don't blame him for thinking he would make a difference.

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com