Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In the Cross Hairs: Johnny Damon

One day Bob Dutton speculates that the Royals might look to add a low cost option and the next Johnny Damon states he wants to retire a Royal. Let's take a brief amount of page space to determine how these two thoughts could even match up.

First off, as a left handed bat, there is a possibility that he could platoon with Jeff Francoeur. Now obviously, Damon has one of the worst arms ever so right field isn't going to be an option for him. So to make a Damon-Frenchy platoon work, it would take some shuffling. Against left handed pitchers, Frenchy would start in right, with Gordon in left and Damon on the bench. Against right handers, Damon would start in left, with Frenchy on the bench and Gordon sliding over to right field.

In his time in the Major Leagues, Gordon has played 3219 innings in left field, but has only played 25 innings in right. Obviously, Gordon has good range, and thanks to his accurate arm and quick release, the arm to play the position. While I think Gordon would be fine in right, I have a hard to imagining the Royals shifting him to the position. I don't know why, but after shifting him around so much early in his career it almost seems as though they want no part of messing up a good thing. For this reason alone, Damon likely isn't a fit for Kansas City.

Even if the Royals were willing to shuffle Gordon between the corners, there is still the issue of Jeff Francoeur. I want to believe that Dayton Moore is looking to upgrade in right field, and at the very least is considering a platoon at the position. However, I struggle to imagine a 2013 outfield without Frenchy. This is unfortunate, as now the Royals are likely right on the cusp and any additional wins could push them over the hump.

The final problem with bringing back Damon, is the fact that he may not be any good anymore. Last season Damon signed for $1.25 mill and played in just 64 games for the Cleveland Indians. In that time he hit just .222/.281/.329. It was the lowest OPS+ Damon had posted since 1996 when he was a 22 year old playing outfield for the Royals.

From a fan's perspective I would love to see Damon retire a Royal. I know many Royals fans have ill feelings toward him, but I am not one of them. Quite frankly, he is one of the best players the Royals have ever produced. Damon currently sits just 231 hits shy of 3,000 and is a career .285 hitter with 408 steals and 235 career home runs.

When it comes to guaranteed money, I wouldn't put anything out there on Damon. As a 39 year old coming off a dreadful season, he no longer warrants an automatic roster spot. If Damon can be had on a Minor League contract with an invite to Big League camp, I would be all for it. Maybe he finds some of the old magic and can provide some value on the roster. Ultimately, the most likely way in which Damon retires a Royal, is the same way in which Mike Sweeney did, a 1 day contract.

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