Damon open to Blue Jays move
Toronto talking with oufielder's agent about possible deal
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have admitted interest in free agent Johnny Damon and the veteran outfielder is not opposed to at least considering what Toronto has to offer. On Friday, Damon indicated that he would not rule out heading north of the border on a short-term contract.
"I am all ears and eager to help make any team better," Damon wrote in a text message to MLB.com
On Thursday night during the Blue Jays' annual State of the Franchise event for season-ticket holders, general manager Alex Anthopoulos told the fans in attendance that the club had contacted Damon's agent, Scott Boras, earlier this week. Toronto has jobs up for grabs in left field and in the leadoff spot -- roles Damon could potentially fill.
"Not to build any expectations or hope," Anthopoulos said, "but we've definitely got a lot of irons in the fire."
Damon, 36, qualified as a Type A free agent this offseason, but the Yankees did not offer him arbitration, meaning he will not cost a signing team a compensatory pick in the next First-Year Player Draft. That fact would undoubtedly appeal to the Blue Jays, who are trying to build a strong foundation for the future under Anthopoulos.
It became clear this week that Damon will not be returning to the Yankees after the club acquired outfielder Randy Winn on Wednesday. Damon's asking price is believed to be down to around $7 million for a one-year contract -- after Boras originally tried to push for a four-year deal -- and the veteran has been tied to the Rays, A's, Tigers, Braves and Reds in various reports.
For the Blue Jays, Damon would represent a short-term solution in the midst of Anthopoulos' long-term vision. As the rookie GM tries to form a plan for turning Toronto into an American League powerhouse once again, he is exploring multiple fronts in an effort to obtain assets. Damon could fit within that strategy.
"If there's a free agent that might have a chance to make this club competitive," Anthopoulos said, "but also be someone that we could look at with respect to a trade, to help bring us an asset back, we'll look at that, too. ... If there's a free agent that may net us a Draft pick at the end of the year or two years, that's something that we would evaluate as well."
On Thursday night, Anthopoulos noted that his phone call to Boras was simply to gather information, and the Blue Jays general manager said it was "tough to say" if there would be a follow-up conversation at this point.
If the Jays were able to add Damon as a left fielder, the club could keep Adam Lind as the primary designated hitter, which Anthopoulos said is his preference for the budding slugger. That would leave Travis Snider, Jose Bautista, Joey Gathright and Jeremy Reed left to compete for the starting job in right field.
After shortstop Marco Scutaro left Toronto to sign with Boston as a free agent, the Jays were also left with a major void in the leadoff spot. Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said on Thursday that Jose Bautista would likely fill that role, as the roster currently stacks up. Damon (.355 career on-base percentage) would be a more ideal solution that Bautista (.329).
Last year, Damon served as the primary No. 2 hitter for the World Series-champion Yankees, batting .282 with 24 home runs, 36 doubles and 82 RBIs over 143 games, adding a .365 on-base percentage. In 98 career games at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Damon has hit .251 with 10 homers, 35 RBIs and a .324 OBP.
The Blue Jays are not expected to contend for the playoffs in 2010, considering the young group of players who make up the bulk of the projected roster. Under the circumstances, Toronto has also discussed the possible benefit of adding another veteran player like Damon to the mix.
"He's a very good player," Anthopoulos said. "So, I think every front office has certainly talked about him, how he would fit and so on, if they have a spot available. But, with respect to having a veteran on the bench, that's another thing that we've talked about -- having someone who's a little more established, helping out the young players."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.