20 March 2012
A coworker approached me at work this morning wondering if I thought the Tigers would actually pursue Johnny Damon to fill the (nominally) vacant designated hitter role. My response: “no way”.
There was some talk of Detroit brining Damon back following the injury to Victor Martinez, but the signing of Prince Fielder filled the DH void without directly filling it. I think everyone (except Mr. Damon, apparently) realizes that the Tigers aren’t looking for another “no defense” hitter to join their roster.
But you can’t really blame Johnny for trying. He’s not necessarily chasing dollars right now, he’s chasing additional rings, but apparently no one’s a taker. Reports are that Damon also reached out to the Yankees this offseason before they decided to go with Raul Ibanez.
“at this point of my career, I want to have some say in who I can and can’t play with… pay me whatever, and I’ll try to help you win a championship”
It was that last portion that my coworker keyed on when asking me my opinion on the matter. If Damon approached Detroit saying that he’d play for any amount of money, is there a number small enough that it would make sense to add the 38 year old to the roster?Delmon Young and Ryan Raburn over the same stretch.
A signing of Damon would basically force Young to play in left field every day (even he’s probably better than Damon) and Raburn at second base. So any hitting advantage that Damon might hold over the likes of Clete Thomas, Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, Brandon Inge, Ramon Santiago, or Danny Worth, would be overshadowed by the dangerously sub-par defense that would be penciled in every single night.
As it is, we’re bound to run into a handful of games with Miguel Cabrera at third base, Raburn at second base, and Young in the outfield simultaneously (though hopefully not often), but brining Damon aboard as an everyday DH would force this to be the case in nearly every game. Without Damon, the Tigers can plan on ‘hiding’ a poor defender for a game. I’m a believer that good offense trumps good defense (only to a point, obviously), but Damon probably doesn’t possess “good offense” any longer. And ‘decent’ offense most certainly doesn’t trump horrid defense.
It would actually make more sense to sign Damon as a bench player, using him as a pinch hitter, a pinch runner (though he actually put up a negative base running score last season), or a very occasional starter. But where would the roster spot come from? Either Dirks or Thomas need to make the team to be able to provide competent defense in the outfield if needed, and either Inge or Worth need to make the team to provide reliable depth at middle infield (I’m counting Santiago and Gerald Laird as obvious choices).
That leaves only Don Kelly’s spot. I’d definitely be willing to listen to you if you argued that Damon was more worthy of a spot than Kelly – because he really doesn’t offer anything the other bench players can’t do equally well, if not better – but he’s a favorite of the manager, and at this point we’d really be forcing the deal to happen. And this would be assuming Damon would be interested in a bench role to begin with.
So, the question of whether or not to add Damon as a DH is a resounding ‘NO’. There’s no price low enough to make that deal worth it. The question of whether or not to add him at all would bring about a little more debate, but just the realization that we would be debating Don Kelly and Johnny Damon should be enough to tell us that it really doesn’t matter either way.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.