Yesterday, RAB tweeted that Johnny Damon said he was interested in returning to the Yankees in 2011 and didn’t like the sentiment. Friend of the blog Jamal Granger posited that Damon could be an okay DH/extra OF option for $5-6MM. Moshe agreed with Jamal. Another friend of the blog, Mike Axisa, then asked what role the Damon advocates could see him in. Finally, yours truly chimed in:
@mikeaxisa Not advocating for Damon, but he could platoon DH when Montero isn’t on the team. He DHs vs. RHP, Jorge vs. LHP?
Mike’s response was a good one: the Yankees will probably re-sign Thames, rendering my version of Damon useless.
So, now that we’ve finished with the background narrative, let’s jump into the possibility of Johnny Damon returning to the Bronx.
If Damon does indeed return, there’s no way I see him getting a starting job. Brett Garner put up over 5 fWAR in LF this year, Curtis Granderson is a great defender and good hitter, and Nick Swisher is a three to four win player as well. Johnny Damon just doesn’t fit into the Yankee outfield.
The DH spot is one where I could see him fitting, but even then it’s not guaranteed or permanent. As Mike said, the Yankees could bring back Thames to hit lefties and “play” outfield every so often. I disagree with him there, though. I think the Yankees are smart enough to realize that they won’t get anything like this from Thames again and will just thank him for his service this year and let him walk. That could open up a spot for Damon to come back, but only under a very small set of conditions. First, he’d play most of the time, but not all the time. If he was on the team, and I was managing, I’d have him DH against RHP and sit against LHP while Jorge Posada did the DHing. This is, of course, assuming that Jesus Montero does not break camp with the Yankees.
That’s definitely a possibility, but I think the ultimate plan for Montero next year is to have him split time at C/DH with Jorge Posada so he can get a good balance of rest and experience while still keeping his (possibly/probably/hopefully) impact bat in the lineup. Posada’s a switch hitter and has no platoon split, so it’s not like Johnny would be necessary for a platoon caddy when Posada’s not catching. I’m still assuming, though, Montero’s presence on the roster. Let’s explore what could happen if Damon is there during the beginning of the year and Montero isn’t. Damon would likely be used in the way I said: DH vs. RHP, sitting vs. LHP while Jorge gets half a day off. What happens when Montero gets the call, though?
Damon would have to take a significantly reduced role, basically that of the fourth outfielder. Would he want to do that? Would he justify a $5-6MM contract as Jamal suggested? And, lastly, the point of the article, would I do it?
I’m not sure Johnny would be down for it, considering a dip in pay and a reduced role, but I’d do it, but not at as high a price as Jamal proposed. I would only consider it if Damon was willing to take a true bench salary: $1-3MM at most. What do you guys think?