Damon open to Bronx return at some point
Free agent not ruling out re-uniting with Yanks in the future
NEW YORK -- Even as Johnny Damon prepares to surrender his pinstripes and walk away from the Yankees, the free-agent outfielder is telling people that it may not be goodbye forever -- just for now.
Damon has been quoted as saying that he is not ruling out returning to the Bronx at some point, since that was where he was hoping this offseason saga would lead him all along.
"My heart is in New York," Damon said in an interview with WFAN on Friday. "I loved playing there, I loved playing with the team. Unfortunately, there's some differences in what was talked about, and here I am looking for another team right now."
Damon, 36, told host Mike Francesa that he entered the offseason looking for a two-year contract to remain with the Yankees, and that he informed agent Scott Boras of those wishes around the time confetti was raining upon the Canyon of Heroes.
"What I told Scott right after the World Series was that I wanted two years with New York," Damon said. "Four would be great, 10 would be better, but two years is what we want. I told him that two years at $11 [million] per, I'd be happy. It's a slight pay cut, but for the chance to stay here, it would be great."
Damon also mentioned that he felt like a two-year contract would be ideal, because he felt the Yankees would have another chance to win a championship, as well as offering Damon a front-row seat to see Derek Jeter likely become the first Yankee to reach the 3,000-hit plateau.
Unfortunately for Damon, those discussions never seemed to materialize. The Yankees' $5.75 million offer to designated hitter Nick Johnson was already on the table when the Yankees presented Damon with a two-year, $14 million proposal, which Damon did believe to be a serious offer.
But it was also more than a 46 percent annual pay cut from his 2009 salary of $13 million, coming off a career year in which Damon hit .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs.
Because of the difference, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the YES Network on Thursday that "the book closed on Johnny a long time ago." The Yankees did ink Johnson, and added what will probably be their last outfield piece this week by signing Randy Winn to a one-year, $2 million deal.
"We had money allocated for Johnny," Cashman said. "We had a strong desire to have Johnny back, but not at all costs. We put a value on Johnny, shared that opinion of what that value was, and Scott Boras and Johnny had a different value and a different opinion.
"Unfortunately, we never even came close to assessing each other or finding a way to bridge the gap."
Though there was a last-ditch effort, according to SI.com, which reported that Damon personally called the Yankees last week. Cashman attempted to float a contract of $6 million with $3 million deferred at no interest, but Damon did not respond to that offer, the report said.
Understanding in discussions with owner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and Cashman that the Yankees would be paying additional dollars on any contract under luxury tax penalties, Damon said that his parting with club brass was on good terms.
"I just hope that in the end, when he does decide to sign, that it's not a number that's in the range of what we were offering before," Cashman said. "That means he could have been a Yankee if he wanted to, and it took him a while to assess what his market value was."
With discussions under way with several Major League clubs, Damon told MLB.com in a text message on Friday that "I am all ears and eager to help make any team better."
The A's, Blue Jays, Braves, Rays, Reds and Tigers have all been reported to have shown some level of interest. But Damon remains open to the idea that, after four seasons in a Yankees uniform, there might be a few more at-bats waiting for him there somewhere down the line.
"I'm not ruling out being in New York, whether it's not this year or whether it is," Damon told WFAN. "Whether I start the season with them or they trade for me at the deadline, or if they sign me next year -- I love New York."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.