August 23rd, 2010
A waiver claim has given Johnny Damon has a decision to make: Return to the Red Sox and join a potential playoff race in the city where he won his first World Series, or stay with the Tigers and finish out a season with an organization he has grown to love.
It’s a much more complex decision than one might think.
“It’s probably as tough of a decision for me to take right now as it was for me to leave Boston for New York,” Damon said Monday at Comerica Park, where he was in the Tigers’ starting lineup for Monday night’s game against Kansas City. “It’s something that fortunately we have some time to think about it.”
Damon confirmed the Red Sox had put in a claim for him off waivers Monday afternoon. Boston and Detroit have until Wednesday afternoon to work out some sort of deal, but the decision essentially hinges on Damon thanks to a no-trade clause negotiated in his contract when he signed with Detroit in February.
Damon’s contract requires his approval to be traded to any team except for eight on a list he submitted before the season began. The Yankees and Rays are on that list, but the Red Sox are not.
Thus, Damon has the right to accept or decline any move. If he accepts, he’ll return to the city where he became a star from 2002-05, including a World Series title in 2004 that broke the Curse of the Bambino. If he declines, the Tigers will have to pull him back off waivers and won’t be able to trade him for the rest of the season.
The Red Sox have an outside chance to get back to the postseason. They began Monday 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East race and 5 1/2 games behind the Rays for the Wild Card.
“At this moment, I’m not sure I want to leave Detroit for that,” Damon said. “I enjoy playing here. I enjoy the kids I’m playing for, the coaching staff. But obviously [Red Sox manager] Terry Francona is amazing. But it’s something that I’m going to have think long and hard over.”
Damon’s issue with Boston appears to be the way things ended after the 2005 season. He signed with the Yankees as a free agent after that season, but his issue seems to date back before that decision was made.
“I had a great time playing there,” Damon said. “But I think once it was apparent that I wasn’t a necessity to re-sign there, it started to get ugly. And that’s why I’ve got to think long and hard. I have to think if they do have a strong chance to make the playoffs with the guys beat up there. I have to think long and hard if I’m going to once again be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but be once again the most hated guy in baseball. That’s what it boils down. You guys see how I get booed in every ballpark already.”
Damon said he received the call from the Tigers around 3 p.m. Detroit has a 1 p.m. ET game against the Royals Wednesday afternoon, so he’ll most likely need to decide by then.
The 36-year-old Damon is batting .270 this season with 30 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBIs. He has struggled in August, batting .219 (16-for-78) with no homers, four doubles, a triple, eight RBIs and 20 strikeouts.
The Tigers signed Damon to a one-year contract in February with the idea that he could be the offensive piece that could help them contend again. For a while, they did, leading the AL Central as recently as last month before a month-long slump out of the All-Star break knocked them double-digit games back of the division lead. Detroit recovered with a three-game series sweep of Cleveland this past weekend, but remains in third place, 11 games behind the Twins.
Damon said last week that he understands why the Tigers might look to deal him and try to save some money or get a prospect in return. He also said he would like to be back with the Tigers next year, whether or not he’s traded. He reiterated that on Tuesday.
“The only reason why I would be considering it is to help out this team in the future,” Damon said. “I love the Tigers organization and I love the fact that they’re up-front and honest. If somehow they can get a good prospect back, a player that can help this team in the future, it would be beneficial for them. I would like to remain a Tiger, so I think that’s why these next hours are pretty important.”
If the Tigers were hoping to push Johnny Damon through waivers for a possible late August trade, they might be disappointed. The veteran outfielder was claimed on waivers by an unknown team, according to FOXSports.com.
The question then would become whether Damon was claimed to set up a possible trade or to block him from being traded to another club. If it’s the former, the Tigers would have 48 hours to try to work out a deal with the team that claimed him. If they can’t finalize a trade, they would have to either pull him back off waivers or let the claiming team take his contract — including what’s left of his $8 million salary due — and receive nothing in return.
There was nothing going on the trade front with Damon as of Sunday, but if Damon was placed on waivers Thursday, as previously reported, teams had until Monday to put in a claim on him. Claims placed on players are processed by league — American League first in this case, then National League — then by record, in order from worst to first.