As of this writing, it’s January 26, and Johnny Damon is in free agent limbo. To date, t’s been a bizarre soap opera of power plays, hasn’t it?
Here’s the brief chronicle of events:
* Scott Boras sets Damon’s “value” at $13 million a year and states Damon won’t sign for less than a three-year deal. The Yankees were amused.
* Brian Cashman, after pulling off the three-team stunner that brought the Yankees Curtis Granderson, counters with two years at $14. Boras is amused and counters at two-for-20.
* Hideki Matsui signs with the Angels Who-Claim-To-Be-From-LA-Only-To-Boost-Marketing-Efforts for one year at $6 million. The Yankees are amused and silently gloat that they might have assessed the market correctly.
* The Yankees raise eyebrows by signing Nick Johnson to a one-year, $5M deal to be the DH, and a week later, swinging Melky Cabrera to Atlanta in a package that brought Javier Vazquez back to the Yankees. Amusement reigned in the sense of irony the Vazquez acquisition represented; here is the man who gave up the home run to Damon that effectively cemented the worst postseason collapse – or greatest comeback, depending on your perspective – in baseball history. As Daffy Duck once said, “Ho ho. That’s rich. It is to laugh.”
So here it is now that Damon, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, has interest from the Oakland A’s (monetary value unknown). Meanwhile, Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have $2 million left in their budget. Elsewhere, Marc Carig heard directly from the source that Damon expects to have a team within a week. If you believe Bill Madden, Damon overplayed his hand and the Yankees misjudged how much they need him.
That may seem dramatic. Michael Kay, on his afternoon show, discussed the Heyman and Olney reports. He wondered if the A’s are offering $5 million and the Yankees do in fact make a last-ditch, take-it-or-leave-it $2 million offer, will Damon swallow his pride, deal with the “emasculation” of an 85 percent pay cut and sign with the Yankees, or if he’ll take Oakland’s money, since that’s the best offer. Bonnie Bernstein opined that if Damon comes back, when he reports to Spring Training and is welcomed heartily, he’ll reclaim his status in the clubhouse. Kay wondered if the ego blow would be too much, noting that the Yankees management “keeps score” (Kay’s words), and would silently revel in their victory.
The Yankees have been known to wait until February to pull rabbits out of their hat. February is a week from now. There are still some pretty notable rabbits on the market. Judging from the flow of reports that surfaced over the last 24 hours, the Yankees might have smartly waited for the New York football season to officially end before breaking their silence.
One thing is certain: Brett Gardner will not be the Yankees’ starting left fielder in Spring Training. … Right?