Closer's in. Now what? Damon?

damon.jpgNow that the Tigers have agreed to terms with closer Jose Valverde, they’re expected to take one more look at upgrading their offense. If they’re going to make an upgrade, it’s most likely going to be in the outfield.If they’re going to go for an outfielder, it’ll be interesting to see if they give a long look at Johnny Damon to fill the one or two spot.

The pending arrival of Valverde had barely settled in when SI.com’s Jon Heyman suggested via Twitter that the Tigers could be “in play” for Damon, then said on MLB Network that the two sides are talking.

While there’s been contact between Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, and the Tigers, a source indicated talk has been preliminary because a closer has been the Tigers’ priority.

Offense now moves up on the list. And we’ll see if Damon’s brand of offense fits the Tigers’ needs well enough for them a take a shot at another veteran in an outfielder that has a couple of them already.

Take age and money out of consideration and go on hitting credentials, and there’s statistically a complement. As Heyman pointed out, Damon has hit up a storm at Comerica Park, batting .363 for his career with a .550 slugging percentage and a .961 OPS.

Keep it in perspective. A lot of those hits came in the first half of his career, including his start with the Royals. But the last three years, when he had only one series a season here, he still hit, going 13-for-40 (.325) with seven runs scored, two homers and five RBIs.

Of greater relevance to the Tigers now might be his fit at or near the top of the order. He batted second almost exclusively last year after spending most of his career in the leadoff spot, and the shift translated well to him.

The home run numbers are relative because of the lefty power-friendly new Yankee Stadium — 17 of his 24 homers came at home — but his 36 doubles were evenly split between home and road. He hit better away from home (.284) than he did in the Bronx (.279), and his average on balls put in play was 50 points higher road than home (.330-.280). He isn’t the same burner he once was on the bases, but he’s smart — 12-for-12 on steal attempts, +18 in Bill James’ baserunning analysis. He has drawn at least 60 walks in 11 of the last 12 years, 71 last season while batting in a stacked lineup.

Whether first or second, an experienced top of the order guy could allow the Tigers to fit in one of their younger players better in the other spot.

His throwing arm, well, evokes memories of Rondell White, which could be a problem in that big of an outfield. His legs still cover ground. He didn’t play center at all last year, so it’s hard to consider him anything more than a spell or a complement for Austin Jackson in center. But he could also be a veteran presence, not that the Tigers don’t have that already with a few guys such as Adam Everett.

Offensively, you can make a very good case that the Tigers can use Damon. But there would have to be a middle ground between them on a contract. The one bright side is that it wouldn’t take a long-term commitment, supposedly one or two years, and it’s tough to see a lot of competition right now, though reports suggest the Braves are interested.

I can’t say where Damon fits into the plan for payroll, because it’s hard to see where the plan is right now. But you can see where he could fit on the field and why this could be an opportunity for both sides.

13 Comments

Gosh, I just caught my breath over getting Valverde and now this talk of Damon. Did we ever think we’d be talking about a guy’s defense? He can hit, though.

I”m not sure how we would use him and if he’d be happy platooning or DHing. Seems like he’d want to play every day.

Don’t see us signing Damon because of the money but I didn’t see us signing Valverde either so you never know. Would love to have Damon leadoff for us but where does he play in the field. Would like him in the outfield and DH Guillen or Mags, though all three don’t really want to be DH’s. I’m happy with Valverde but what the heck if we can get Damon to them we have made to major upgrades. Go Tigers.

Put him in Left and leave Guillen at DH where he belongs.

The author obviously has not watched Damon play over the last year or two. “His legs still cover ground”? Perhaps, but his ability to track a fly, whether to the gap, over his head, to the line, directly to him, or in, is gone. Every fly ball is an adventure…some he gets, some he doesn’t. If the Tigers do sign him, Leyland and staff, as Girardi did last year, will suffer from ongoing heartburn and palpitations on every fly ball hit to the left side. Yes, he will hit. ..would he be a great DH? Yes, except that he still believes he can do it all, and pouting is not out of the question when his team takes the field sans Johnny. Nonetheless, if he is told to “check his glove at the door” and the tariff does not go beyond a few mill on a one year deal (Ha, Ha, with Boras and JD’s ego and sense of exalted self-worth) sign him!!!

I’m impressed with the Valverde acquisition and the determination to sign him. He might have a bad year (I’m thinking he won’t though), as often closers do occasionally. But they went out and finally addressed an area that has been bandaged over for far too long. They seem serious about this year after all.
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As to Johnny Damon–well I just don’t think he is a solid answer to the lingering problem of a solid LHB outfielder. He can respond well situationally, but his shortcomings on defense do not justify benching Raburn and displacing Guillen. His age limits his contribution to the team in terms of years of service and is an overhanging issue in that players of his age can “hit the wall” suddenly in terms of production. He could go from 24 HRs last year to 4.
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I would rather see them pick up a LHB through the trade market as they now have a glut of LHP in the pen, and perhaps a back of the rotation starter to offer someone for a younger bat with potential. They still need a leadoff hitter and someone to put a little pressure on the oppositions “D” when he comes to the plate.
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Brandon Inge will again be a lightning rod. Odd how is is so revered in Detroit and unwanted elsewhere. There has been no talk of any team (and many teams went after 3rd sackers) that was interested. He does a good job but he is not a game changer at the plate (at least not for our side) and has as many bad throws as highlight reel plays on defense. If JL gets stubborn about this he can be detrimental to the team if he is trottted out there every day regardless of his physical condition or his batting woes. I will say I like Inge but this is a position the Tigers have entrusted to a personality. They lost faith in him and went after MCab then reversed direction in the “hope” they could “make” him a star. I think his all-star selection last year was pretty inappropriate and skewed the thinking about how valuable he is to the team. It is far more important for him to hit .280 than to hit 25 HRs. The farms system is not producing a replacement. It would be nice if Jeff Larish was a surprise , but I would be, well, surprised.
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The key for the Tigers will be offense. There may be a horrible lack of production from 3rd, short and 2B. There will not be a lot of RBIs from the outfielders or catcher.
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We still need a big bopper and a surprise.

I like that they’re trying to get younger and cheaper in the outfield… Also, if Damon gets signed then Detroit will set some kind of record for defensive replacements next year. Does anyone think Leyland will let an outfield of Guillen, Damon and Ordonez make it past the 4th inning?

Damon would not be signed to play CF. Jackson is the CF under pretty much any scenario, regardless of who they sign.
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Look, I know there’s a lot of speculation about the chance of pulling a trade for a hitter, and what they could deal. But do folks really think there’s enough starting pitching to pull a trade for an offensive contributor? Didn’t we go through this last year in camp?
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This has the chance to be a very big camp for Jeff Larish, one way or the other.

If they were to actually sign Damon, I’d be accepting of that. He brings things to the table that the Tigers haven’t had in years, and he’s used to winning. This could also serve as a bridge to the younger players for a year or so. I’m looking at it, however, from a perspective of realism. I don’t see any way that the two sides could agree on terms, and will be very surprised if this takes place. Obviously, I can be very wrong about it, as this offseason has been a very winding road so far. As far as trading for a hitter goes, the club seems much more willing to part with “name” players than in years past.
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At least management is trying to keep us in the hunt while returning to their original direction. We fans paid the price in 2008 and we don’t need a similar season.
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–Rich

The Tigers need a shortstop one helluva lot more than we need another OF’er. I’d like to see DD make a run at Maicer Izturis, who will be a free agent after this season, and could be squeezed out by Aybar and Howie Kendrick in Anaheim. The T Rays also have extras at the SS position. Production at the SS position was pitiful last year. According to fangraphs, Everett saved 8 runs with his glove and cost 17 at the plate vs the avg SS.

Valverde is the first free agent to get a multi year contract from the Tigers since before the 2006 season, and he gets the biggest money free agent contract since Kenny Rogers got two years at 8 mil per year. If Valverde’s option is picked up, it’ll be the biggest since Maggs got before the ’05 season.

Nice to see the check book isn’t completely lost.

If the Tigs sign Damon, you gotta belive that the Tigs had issues with Curtis.

I don’t think it was an issue with Granderson, I think it was how effective of a leadoff hitter is he going to be. He was terrible vs. LHP, and went through some huge slumps last summer. I feel if the tigers sign Damon, it shows that the trade they made was an attempt to improve this team. Max has potential to be as good if not better then E Jackson, and Austin Jackson could be a leadoff hitter in the future. The way I see the tigers need a leadoff hitter now, and Damon would fit that role.

I have a question for you guys ..
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I know we signed a better closer in some ways but Rodney’s performance wasn’t that bad …
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So is it worth it that we traded Rodney 2 years, $ 3M and the 1st round pick for Valverde for 2 years and an end of the 1st rounder ?

The Yanks should teach Juan Miranda to play left field, and let the Tigers have Damon. Now, Miranda is a solid hitting first baseman.
Might just happen…I predicted Melky for a pitcher.

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