Reacting To The Market
We’ve talked quite a bit about what type of player who makes sense as the final guy on the position player side of things, given the current roster – a right-handed outfielder who can swing the stick and not embarrass himself in the field would be the perfect complement to the current Bradley/Langerhans/Saunders group of LF options on the roster. There are any number of fairly cheap, useful players of that sort on the market, so the M’s should be able to fill that spot rather easily.
But sometimes, things happen that change your plans. And, given the market that is developing (or not developing, as the case may be) in Johnny Damon’s case, perhaps its time for the Mariners to consider an alternate plan in left field.
Buster Olney reported today that the market for Damon has “dried up”. The Yankees are holding steady on the fact that they only have $2 million left to spend, and they won’t expand their budget to bring him back. There was some talk that the A’s could still pursue Damon even after signing Ben Sheets, but Billy Beane threw water on that idea.
The other teams that had been rumored destinations for Damon either don’t seem interested or have already spent their money on other players. Olney speculates that $4 or $5 million on a one year deal may be the best that Damon could do, and he thought that kind of offer could come from Oakland, who now appears unlikely to pursue him.
There is apparently an opportunity for the Mariners here. As I wrote on FanGraphs today, there are a lot of similarities between Damon this year and Bobby Abreu a year ago. We all saw how the Abreu contract worked out for the Angels, and something like a 1 year, $5 million deal for Damon may be a similarly good idea for the M’s.
Damon is still a good player. He hits for average, draws walks, makes contact, and has some power. Sure, New Yankee Stadium helped him quite a bit last year, but Safeco is designed to help the same type of hitter, and he would find the right field porch in Seattle just as inviting. He’s a good enough defender to handle LF at Safeco, even as his range declines – there’s little evidence that he’s much worse than below average defensively at this point, and that includes his hilariously bad arm. The glove doesn’t even come close to canceling out the value he creates at the plate.
Given regular playing time, Damon should be a +2 to +3 win player, and the Mariners have playing time to offer him. Sure, it’s not ideal to add yet another LH hitter to the LF/DH mix, but Damon doesn’t need to be platooned, so you don’t have to replace Langerhans with a right-handed hitting outfielder in order to make it work (though you could if you wanted to). And you don’t walk away from a bargain just because it’s not ideal. If the M’s can really get Damon for $5M-ish, they won’t find a more cost effective way to upgrade the team in free agency.