by Mike DePilla
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Yes, it's true. Despite the Sox lukewarm pursuit, Johnny Damon has chosen to sign with the Detroit Tigers for a one-year, $8 million contract and, presumably, all the octopus he can eat. Notice how that $8 million is a higher annual salary than the two-year, $14 million deal the Yankees offered a long while ago? That is the sound of Scott Boras saving face.
The Sox best offer, meanwhile, was believed to be $4.5 million this year with an additional million or two deferred in 2011 or beyond.
So, Thome and O-Dog to the Twins, now Damon to the Tigers. Should we just cancel the season tomorrow? Well, there's no question the Sox would have been a significantly better team with Damon on board than they are now. But losing out on Damon is not the end of the world. In fact, some good resulted from the whole ordeal. Here are four such good things:
1. It proves Kenny Williams is at least somewhat uneasy with the rotating DH of bench players strategy, and that he's willing to test the waters for possible improvements. The Sox', or more accurately- Ozzie's, decision to pass on Jim Thome was framed as "we don't need anybody else" as opposed to "he's not good enough." That was the most frustrating part. Now it appears, at least a little bit, that they were just being respectful to Big Jim. Kenny is not going to leave any stone unturned in improving this team.
2. The team will have money to spend at midseason. They pretty much always do anyway (despite what they say publicly). But if they had about $5 million to spend on Damon now, that means they can afford approximately the prorated amount of a $10 million a year guy sometime in July. Two names to watch: Brad Hawpe and Carl Crawford. Forget Adrian Gonzalez.
3. Damon isn't that great anyway. He's probably better than anything we have right now, true. But the guy isn't a Silver Slugger, and he's probably not as good as his 2009 stat line. He's 36 years old, he doesn't play great defense and, for a speed guy, he only stole 4 bases after the All-Star break last year. I know the defense thing doesn't matter, but his age does.
And with his '09 power probably a mirage created by New Yankee Stadium, he's likely to regress in several categories in '10. He should still turn in a good season, but he wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the Sox were at least somewhat wise not to pay him based on '09 performance. (Bill James and CHONE projections have him under 20 homers with a sub-.360 OBP.) If the Sox had sunk the $5+ million into Damon, what funds would be left later on? There will be other, possibly better, difference-makers out there for the Sox to pursue when needed.
4. It proves Kenny and Jerry are willing to work with Boras. No, they don't like him, and he won't be invited to their proverbial Christmas parties, but at least we know Sox brass won't categorically rule out Boras clients. It didn't work out this time, but if the unconditional ban has been lifted, other windows might open in the future.
Some good spring previewing going on by JJ at White Sox Examiner. My five keys to the spring coming later this week.
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