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Buster Olney has an interesting account of the Johnny Damon negotiations that I am inclined to believe. He suggests that Damon was the Yankees’ Plan A in left and at the 2 slot in the lineup, but simply kept rejecting offers that were commensurate to his value at the time. There are a few relevant excerpts here, but I would like to include the caveat that Damon’s camp would likely dispute some of the details, and suggest the Yankees never actually made an offer. Keeping that in mind, here is Buster’s account of the talks:

Well, in the hours after the Granderson trade was completed, they moved to seriously engage Damon in talks, and — as reported on ESPN.com at the time — they were told over and over: If you’re going to offer a contract that represents a decrease in salary, don’t bother to make an offer. Damon, himself, told the Yankees that directly. If you want to cut my salary, talk to the hand….

They believed that Damon didn’t have offers along that the lines that Boras was talking about, but they didn’t know for sure — the Red Sox can speak to that experience, having lost out on Mark Teixeira — and the Yankees’ offer to make offers wasn’t even being entertained.

So they moved on, pursuing Nick Johnson, who had the highest on-base percentage of any free agent — and they had to move fast, because Johnson was deep into negotiations with the Giants. Johnson was the Yankees’ Plan B to Damon, and given that their Plan A wasn’t even willing to talk, they reached an agreement on a one-year, $5.5 million deal with Johnson.

It wasn’t until after word of Johnson’s impending deal broke that Damon’s side indicated a willingness to barter, and the Yankees did talk about a two-year concept — which was immediately rejected. But at that point, having reached a verbal agreement with Johnson, the team’s priorities had shifted…

Last week, Damon reached out to the Yankees, wanting to talk, and so the Yankees again re-engaged the left fielder, offering the money they had left they had under the budget that was set before the winter meetings. Even then, however, they were told that Damon had other options, including multi-year offers. They were told he wanted more than the $6 million package in salary and incentives that the Yankees were willing to pay.

This account of events sounds authentic to me, if only because it fits what we have heard about Boras and his method of negotiation. He likes to set a high bar to open negotiations, threatening to not even come to the table unless certain demands are met. In this case, that gambit likely cost his client a 2 year deal, as the Yankees decided to move on to Plan B so they could focus on adding a starting pitcher. Then, after Boras read the market again and realized he had overplayed his hand, Damon came back to the Yankees offering to take a much smaller deal than the one the Yankees had considered offering him previously. Yet instead of returning with a conciliatory attitude, Boras continued to play his “mystery team” games, and once again the Yankees moved on.

It will be interesting to see how much Damon gets from whoever signs him for 2010. It seems that Scott Boras plays a very dangerous game, making outrageous claims and spreading rumors of nonexistent offers so as to scare teams into caving on demands from a player they covet. Often, this results in his player getting an above market deal from a club that had no real competition for a player’s services (see Holliday, Matt). However, on occasion, the target club will see through Boras’ machinations and will simply refuse to budge on their offer or will move on to their next option. This leaves the client without a deal from the club that he wanted to play for, as is likely the situation in the case of Johnny Damon. Such is the risk of signing on with Scott Boras.

23 Responses to “Olney: Damon Just Kept Saying No”

  1. It’s clear that Cashman wanted Damon at his own price, not Damon’s. Cash did an excellent, excellent job of staring down Boras in this negotiation.

    How much longer can Damon wait now? There’s fewer than 20 days left until Spring Training starts and we’ve heard nothing in terms of official offers from most teams. The only concrete thing we’ve heard is Billy Beane saying that the A’s are NOT in on Damon. I have a feeling he’ll go into ST w/o a team. If that happens, there’s still a VERY small chance that he could return to the Yankees, no? For that to happen, though, the Yankees would have to be very unimpressed by Jamie Hoffmann AND Brett Gardner AND Randy Winn. Okay nevermind. It’s not going to happen.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Joe X Reply:

    Best thing for Damon is to sign with Tampa, save face by being home nights with his family for 81 games and try to keep his #s high enough to appeal to the Yankees as DH next year.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    Joe X , next year DH???? thats posadas spot..Et. Al. we have some big moves next year ,but be sure damon will never be a yankee next year..  (Quote)

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    Joe X Reply:

    The Yankees were going to give Damon 2 year contract and they did give Johnson an option year. Only reason to rush Jorge is if they get Mauer which I don’t think will happen.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    Hi Joe , we will be sick watching posada catch this year..he is done..no way he catches next year..worse than piazza now..scared of contact.. can’t catch balls away and down , his glove is position wrong..his hands are banged up..pettitte is the only guy who likes him behind the plate.. believe me i hope he makes me eat my words.. he will be the Dh next year..damon will be a year worse. he hit .280 last year…montero will hit that with ease and a ton of power and youth to the team… johnny will not come marching home next year./. he won’t hit more than 15 homers this year.. the stadium was a great fit for him.. mauer stays a twin unless a team gives him 22mil and up. won.t be the yanks, they would have given montero up for Doc if that was the case.and then went all out for mauer.. boras may wind up with damons wife next, he screwed up his career.  (Quote)

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    Joe X Reply:

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Johnny is a DH now period. My point was that that’s only way I see him having a chance to return. I don’t think Cervelli is near ready for full time catcher if ever. Montero is so uncertain. I fear Posada will catch most of the time and don’t see a better solution.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    your right cervelli is an excellent backup.. he will have to really start hitting to be a #1, i feel with the right club giving him a real shot he can hit .280. wont happen with us, we have austin romine, a few years out, but he is a guy that could be our future, montero in my mind should be full time DH, and back up romine if he works out in the future, just thinking of posada behind the plate next year makes me ill..damon put us in a spot, he had a spot on this team.. if he would have said to boras, 2 years 9mil, NJ would not be on the team, damon would be going to tampa to play not drink and hit golf balls..how could he not order boras to do that..that would have been 6years as a yank for 70mil..plus his tv and other promos he does, a hugh benefit from playing with the yanks, he made money his god and boras the voice to it. he had to know he is only a dh.. and an old one.he would get playoff money every year with the yanks, a shame, why not retire a yank in a few years, now he will sell himself to the weaker teams and lose the class he created last year.. grow his hair and beard and hide behind it..  (Quote)

    Jay Reply:

    It’s clear that NOBODY wants Damon at Damon’s price… lol  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    there are 3 people in this photo, damon must divorce one of them..Hmmmm, whom do you think it should be???  (Quote)

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  2. I love Buster, but reading his columns over the years it’s always been obvious to me that he’s speaking directly to Brian Cashman and conveying his message. That’s not to say it’s wrong, but I just take that into account. That being said, these reports ring true to me as well. I seem to remember these very same accounts being reported about a month ago, and Voila! Scott Boras’ worst enemy is our friend Google.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/yankees/damon_ready_to_explore_other_options_yYo3XXSeobj1MLraxaVxQI

    “With very little contact between the Yankees and the free-agent left fielder, Damon is ready to explore other options.

    “I am going to start looking around. Teams are getting better and there are teams interested,” Damon told The Post yesterday. “I can’t wait forever and I am sure [the Yankees] are trying to figure things out. I have to be ready.”

    At the crux of the situation is that the Yankees aren’t interested in giving the 36-year-old Damon more than two years for about $20 million. Agent Scott Boras says Damon deserves a three- to four-year pact and industry sources believe Damon doesn’t want to take a cut from the $13 million he made last season.”

    That’s from December 16th, a few days before Johnson signed.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Steve S.: it’s always been obvious to me that he’s speaking directly to Brian Cashman and conveying his message.

    Totally agree (which is why I provided the caveat and didnt present it as fact). As you mentioned, Buster is really tied into the Yankees front office due to his years on the beat. That said, all reports up to the Winn signing, plus this story, suggest that Buster is providing a pretty accurate depiction here, although he may be overstating the level of Yankee interest in Damon a bit (he makes it sound like they were actively chasing him over and over).  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    Again, just because it’s coming from one side doesn’t mean it’s not true. Both sides have an axe to grind here, so we can just dig up the facts and decide for ourselves.

    Mo, Google reports from December 15th-19th (when Johnson signed).You may want to change the title of this piece to “Johnny Damon is a lying sack of shit”  (Quote)

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    Jay Reply:

    I agree that Olney has a lot of ties to the Yankees. However, I kind of think if he is hearing it, it’s leaked from others. Cashman has seemed very, very quiet about all personnel moves (which is a good thing, not a bad thing).  (Quote)

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  3. Mo, there’s a bunch of timelines out there today. BBD, Bleacher Report, and Joel Sherman.

    Here’s Joel:
    http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/hardball/boras_says_yankees_dumped_damon_1Y7MWfaSvEHqMi0QBEdGhM  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I have a hard time believing Boras’ version, simply because he contradicts himself. He claims the Yankees slammed the door on him in December due to the Johnson signing, yet the Yankees made an offer right before they signed Winn. They clearly wanted Damon back, just at their price. It was Damon’s prerogative to reject the offer, and he did so, but to suggest the Yankees shut Damon out and never made an overtures to him seems a bit disingenuous and contrary to fact.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    He overplayed his hand, and Brian bitch-slapped him. People make Boras out to be some sort of super-agent who always gets his $$, but the fact of the matter is he loses his share of negotiations, like anyone else.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    I agree Moshe, Cash did the right thing for the yankees and baseball.we did not raise the bar, fair market value is what he would pay, abreu , should have woke them up..5 mil..and he sweat it out..  (Quote)

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  4. This is just anus covering by Cashman using Olney as his accomplice. Deep down he can’t have any warm fuzzies about going into the playoffs with Randy Winn, Nick Johnson and Gardner as his replacements for a prove playoff performer like Damon. He knows what will happen if we get nothing out of these guys this year and Damon winds up somewhere else and contributes something significant. If they pan out, he looks like a genius, if they don’t he can point to Boras and say “hey, his demands were too much”.

    I’m still in horror that we couldn’t keep at least one of Matsui or Damon, I just have this sinking feeling we’re going to regret one or both of those moves either during the year or during the playoffs. I pray I’m wrong.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Neither Damon or Matsui helped them to a title before, and both actually had moments in this very postseason where people wanted them gone. Let’s not overstate their clutchiness.

    Also, which part of this do you disagree with? Why exactly wouldnt they just bring back Damon rather than not bring him in and cover their behinds? It seems very clear it was a cost issue, which is really all that Olney says here- they wanted Damon, but not at all costs, and he kept rejecting their offers.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    didn’t nick johnson take less to be a yankee…..  (Quote)

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  5. “It seems that Scott Boras plays a very dangerous game, making outrageous claims and spreading rumors of nonexistent offers so as to scare teams into caving on demands from a player they covet. Often, this results in his player getting an above market deal from a club that had no real competition for a player’s services (see Holliday, Matt). However, on occasion, the target club will see through Boras’ machinations and will simply refuse to budge on their offer or will move on to their next option. This leaves the client without a deal from the club that he wanted to play for, as is likely the situation in the case of Johnny Damon. Such is the risk of signing on with Scott Boras.”

    While Damon represents an overreach by Boras that seems to have blown up in his face, I think that if one were to look at the totality of his body of work, the instances where he was able to secure a contract that exceeded a player’s apparent market value (Zito, K Brown, A Jones, O Perez, etc etc …) far exceed the instances where his clients(Damon, Jody Reed, Jeremy Guthrie) underachieved at the bargaining table.His missteps, though well chronicled, are analagous to the instance where a great pitcher gets knocked out early.From time to time stuff happens but on balance his record compares favorably with any of his peers and is why top amateurs continue to sign up for the services of his agency each year. Given the opportunity, I would think that a plurality, if not absolute majority, of readers and posters of this website would choose Boras if given the opportunity to select one agent to represent them in a baseball contract negotiation  (Quote)

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  6. Boras plays such a high-risk, high-reward game. When he loses, it’s not just a less-than-optimum contract with the desired team, but the team itself. And when that team is desired….

    Here’s what I want to know about the Damon situation: Did he say “Scott, Priority One is to get me back on the Yankees,” or some such? Did he only state a preference for the Yankees? And if so, to what extent was it for the Yankees’ coffers? Whether the budget is as firm as Cash says or not, I applaud the way he apparently went about these negotiations. The ongoing intrigue for me is whether Boras essentially ignored some kind of mandate from his client.

    It doesn’t feel like it, which makes me wonder how much Damon truly wanted to come back, certainly whether it was above money. Once the nature of the market made itself apparent, perhaps it came down to pride — taking less money being much more palatable if it’s another team. But if Damon’s interest in his HOF credentials are as intense as reported, wouldn’t it have behooved him to suck it up, so to speak? He — and Boras — could’ve legitimately and successfully spun it as sacrificing a market-value contract to extend his association with a team he loves while getting his best shot at some milestones.  (Quote)

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  7. damon had the edge, grany came after 13 mil or no talks, then johnson , they made two moves to fill , Dh left field issues..he had the ball on the opening kick off.. he kept fumbling and bumbling.. maybe boras put holliday on the yanks and not damon.. he thought the yanks would throw bags of money at matt.damon should wake up to that.. yankees were very smart not to take matt.. and smarter not to fall into a panic.. damon made 52mil with us..and lost his idiot tag by his appearance, he now has the tag back , but only as idiot..  (Quote)

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