Inbox: Why isn't Damon signed?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans questions
Why is it taking us so long to sign Johnny Damon?
-- Jacob K., West Bloomfield, Mich.
What we know is that Damon was in Hawaii this past week, reportedly taking part in a charity golf tournament that took place over the weekend. What we don't know yet is whether he made up his mind while he was out there. Speculation had him deciding on a team by the end of this past week, but that apparently didn't happen.
Keep in mind, position players still have a week before full-squad workouts begin Feb. 23, so Damon -- or his agent, Scott Boras -- could drag this on and he could still be in somebody's camp on time.
If the Tigers happen to sign Damon, why didn't they just keep Curtis Granderson? He is a lefty and a great center fielder. They will be paying a heavy price for Damon. The reason they traded Grandy was to clear some money, but if they sign Damon, what's the point?
-- Ashley H., Dorr, Mich.
Fair question, and one that's popping up a lot lately. The first thing I'd offer up is that the Granderson trade wasn't simply about money. They knew they could get some younger players and prospects by trading Granderson -- especially at this point in his career -- and Edwin Jackson, more than they could get for a lot of other Tigers aside from Justin Verlander or Rick Porcello, and they went for it. You can't ignore the financial flexibility they got out of it. This is the same team that couldn't offer arbitration to Placido Polanco. The other factor is that plans change, and Boras is good at what he does in these situations.
With all the interest concerning Damon, I am wondering why Jermaine Dye isn't on the Tigers' radar. It seems to me that you might be able to sign him on a one-year contract for a reasonable price. I understand the need for an "on-base" guy at the top of the order to help take the pressure off of Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, but how about some extra power further down in the order?
-- Tom, Seymour, Conn.
The big conflict with Dye is that he's a right-handed hitter, of which the Tigers already have many. He's also coming off what was a down year for him, though his .340 on-base percentage was pretty nice considering his .250 average. He batted just .179 after the All-Star break with a .297 slugging percentage.
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-- Steve W., Auburn, Mich.
I agree there's some hype going on with Damon. Part of an agent's job is to build buzz for his client, and again, Boras is very good at that. Still, you can't deny that having a hitter like Damon at or near the top of the order fills a big need for these guys. If you accept the idea that the Tigers needed more runners on base for Miguel Cabrera to drive in last year, then having effective hitters in front of him is a big deal.
To answer the second part of your question, I don't think you can count on making a big trade in Spring Training. You don't know that you're going to have a pitching surplus, and you can't count on other teams having impact hitters on the trading block while also needing what you have. Situations change for teams so often from the start of camp to the end of it that you can never be sure. If a team feels it has to add something or somebody, if it's major, it's best to get it out of the way.
Why don't the Tigers bring in some of the veterans left on the market? They have nothing to lose by doing so. I am concerned because only about 60 percent of the club is proven MLB players. There are some big bats left and utility players available.
-- Jon R., Harrison, Mich.
First, they do have payroll to lose. I know big numbers are being thrown around on Damon, but it isn't play money. Second, there's a very slight, very important transition when a proven Major League player becomes a player on the downside of his career. If you're talking about a percentage of proven players, the 2008 Tigers had a pretty high mark. But what was proven on Jacque Jones, Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield turned out to be a lot different than what the Tigers got out of them that year. For all that has been made of trading Jair Jurrjens to get Renteria, they also traded Omar Infante to get Jones.
Do the Tigers really want another over-the-hill player who can't hit, field or throw? Damon fits right in with Renteria, Sheffield, Jones, Jose Mesa and the rest of the over-the-hill gang. The Tigers continue to try players on the downhill part of their careers. Why not go with rookies? At least they may improve.
-- John F., Grand Rapids, Mich.
You know, you and Peter could have a good argument over this. I'd suggest, though, that Damon probably doesn't fit in that group. His recent offensive numbers are stronger, he doesn't have the injury history, and by all reports, he keeps himself in good shape.
Happy Chinese New Year! I saw last week that this is the Year of the Tiger. This means we can't lose, right?
-- Gary R., Troy, Mich.
Hate to break it to you, but the Detroit Tigers have never gone to the playoffs in the Year of the Tiger. In fact, the last Year of the Tiger was 1998, when Detroit lost 97 games. Good news: That's one of just two losing records the Tigers have posted in the Year of the Tiger, the other coming in 1974.
Somehow, though, the Year of the Tiger is good for the Astros, who have won their division each of the last two instances in '98 and '86. Not that it matters to many Detroit fans, but it figures, since you can always find a match between the Tigers and Astros.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.