Monday, November 23, 2009
Thoughts on Johnny Damon
As the irrefutable mountain of evidence piles up against the Giants possibly signing Bay or Holliday, the Gyros and us fans must shift our attention to more possible situations. Unspectacular, yet helpful names have been mentioned recently-- Mark DeRosa, Yorvit Torrealba, Nick Johnson, and yes, Johnny Damon.
At 36 Damon isn't getting any younger, but has been a consistent, useful player over the past few years in New York. Even though he'd be nearly 40 at the end of a 3 year deal, he'd be the perfect bridge-gapper that we need until guys like Thomas Neal and Roger Kieschnick are ready to play.
Granted, his line is inflated because he played on an all-star team in the Bronx, full of silly talent up and down. But we can't overlook what he's done. In 2009, he put up sick numbers: 24 HR, 82 RBI, with an .854 OPS-- the 24 dongs tied a career high, and the OPS figure is the best of his life! In fact, it was so solid, that it was good for 48th in all of major league baseball-- ahead of guys like Matt Kemp, David Wright, Carlos Lee, Chipper Jones, Miguel Tejada, and Jermaine Dye to name 6.
Defense and durability are big considerations that definitely dull Damon's luster as a National League left fielder.
Damon averaged 144 games a year in four seasons with the Yankees. And, yes, some of those were as a DH, especially in '08. Of course, the DH is one of the many great advantages that the AL has over NL teams... an advantage that hurts the NL constantly. I mean, wouldn't it be nice if we could sign Vlad Guerrero to hit? Or if we could've kept Barry for another year? Sigh...
Damon can still cover ground decently, but he has a noodle arm... not quite Juan Pierre or Chad Pennington bad, but it's transforming itself from rigatoni to angel hair quite quickly. There's that, and the fact that Aaron Rowand can't really play center like we all expected he could. Those two manning our big yard scares me... but again, as I used with the Jason Bay argument, Giants fans just want some friggin offense, and we'll take our chances with some gappers to left center. This of course is why we have a disgusting pitching staff.
More importantly, Damon works counts, gets on base, still has above average speed, and is a beautiful complement to those already on the team-- ahem, all-- who refuse to take pitches and get on base for the Giants.
Damon has a career .355 on base percentage-- about a half point higher than the league worst Giants had this year of .309. In '09 Damon reached base nearly 37% of the time. Someone like him on the Giants would immediately fall between the realm of godsend and and all-seeing oracle for the free-swinging simpletons Bochy has had to trot out there.
The all important Fangraphs UZR/150 metric puts Damon in some of the worst outfielding company. In 2009, he sported a -12.1 rating while playing left (again, Manny Ramirez had a -15.4 rating and Franklin Gutierrez led the league with a +27.1 rating).
Damon's fielding .978 fielding percentage was only slightly better than Alfonso Soriano's, and he was lost in the middle of the pack with 6 OF assists last year.
What all these things tell me is that Damon is an average left fielder in decline. It doesn't appear to be rapid, but it's significant enough to think about it before throwing a bunch of money at him.
Ah yes, the money part-- the most important part.
The Gyros and Johnny have mutual interest, but this is not his first choice. His first choice is to stay in New York-- and according to Jon Heyman of SI, "...(Damon) is believed badly to want to stay." and he would be a better keeper than Matsui would be for the Champs.
And here's the kung pao kicker. Damon's agent is Scott Boras.
I can here you groaning over the Chris LeDoux song I'm listening to over here. I know. I'm groaning inside too.
Boras is the slime that we all love to hate; the guy who procured Barry Zito's contract out of thin air. We all hate the guy, but loooovvves us! Which is why Sabean can always expect his Blackberry Bold to ring, regardless of real mutual interest. This one time I hope that Sabean isn't in an AT&T deadzone.
Damon is looking for a four year deal, something the Yanks are (smartly) unwilling to do. What it will come down to in the end is a third year, either fully guaranteed or something that vests automatically with attainable goals (ie. 500 plate appearances/140 games.)
The acutal money is going to be around $11MM+ per. And before you begin groaning again, let's be realistic. He deserves it. He put up great numbers, and he doesn't deserve a big paycut from the $13MM a year he got from the Yankees. In fact, he has put up nearly identical numbers in his 2009 walk year that he did in '05 when he left Boston for the Evil Empire.
Again, with our three stud pitchers (Lincey, Sanchez, Weezy) due Mark Mangino-sized arbitration raises, it'll all be a little clearer in the near future.
What I dread is Sabean getting tricked by Boras again like he did with Zeets. Boras is really thanking Satan right now that the Giants have shown interest in his client. Now he'll play the leverage-lie-deceive-postulate-lie game to drive up Damon's price.
Bottom line, I take Johnny Damon at 3yrs./$36MM, I really do. Make him earn the 3rd year, then turn him loose. This guy getting on base in front of Pablo is exactly what we need.