MLB 2006 Free Agents: Johnny Damon
With less than two months left to go in the regular season, speculation is already beginning concerning the destinations of future free agents. At the top of the list is Boston Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon.
To begin with, what kind of contract will Damon command? With Scott Boras as his agent, Damon won't be shy about his salary and length expectations. $10 million per year would be the absolute minimum, and $14 million a year would probably be on the high end. We're being intentionally vague here, but here's a fearless prediction: Johnny Damon's contract will average $12.5 million annually.
Next question: how many years? Damon is 31. Carlos Beltran snagged a seven-year deal, but he's 28. Five years sounds about right, although four or six are on the radar as well. Let's settle on a four-year, $50 million deal.
Last question: who's going to pony up this kind of cash? Here are the suitors, in order of likelihood.
Red Sox: Theo Epstein has stated that he wants Damon back. But as Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe states, "Roster flexibility is a principal tenet of the Epstein way." Jason Varitek pushed Epstein to the limit with four years, and Damon wants six. The Sox let Pedro Martinez walk, and we expect the same to happen with Damon.
Angels: Damon has stated publicly that Los Angeles is #2 on his list:
"Anaheim's right behind Boston as far as teams on the list," Damon said. "I love Southern California. The weather is awesome, I like the team, I love (Manager) Mike Scioscia, I love their pitching staff, I love Orlando Cabrera. A lot of things about it make sense."
Nothing like campaigning for a new team before the season even ends. With the colossal flop of Steve Finley and the Los Angeles club near the bottom in the AL in batting average and on-base percentage, Damon would be a welcome addition. Angels GM Bill Stoneman wasn't shy about signing the best player on the market in Vladimir Guerrero, so L.A. seems like a good possibility.
Yankees: As we've learned from Baseball Musings, even Regis has been working on getting Damon to the Bronx. The Yanks usually come away with one big prize each offseason, and they won't be shy to hand out six years as a dealbreaker.
Cubs: GM Jim Hendry has no problem dealing with Scott Boras. And Sammy Sosa's contract will finally be off the books in 2006. But with that and the Kerry Wood contract not looking pretty in their late stages, Hendry will probably be cautious with Damon. He flashed some interest in Carlos Beltran and J.D. Drew this winter, but wisely passed in the end. Expect Corey Patterson to get one more go in center for the 2006 Cubs. Otherwise, Hendry might import 2003 spark Kenny Lofton. For further reading on the subject, check out the Cubs 2006 Projected Lineup.
Tigers: Detroit is still reeling a bit from the Troy Pervical signing, and no one knows if Magglio Ordonez can't justify that contract no matter what he does. Still, the Tigers threw a four-year deal at Placido Polanco and they could use a center fielder. Don't rule it out.
In addition, the Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Orioles could be in the mix.
Check out all the Roto Authority MLB Free Agents 2006 articles. You'll find speculation and rumors concerning A.J. Burnett, Trevor Hoffman, Brian Giles, B.J. Ryan, and more.