Detroit appears to be frontrunner for Damon
Outfielder continues to evaluate options as camp nears
If it's going to take a two-year offer to land Johnny Damon, then the Tigers might be on the verge of acquiring the veteran outfielder.FOXSports.com, citing Major League sources, reported Thursday that Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has authorized a two-year, $14 million contract offer to Damon. It has been reported that the Tigers and the Braves are both pursuing Damon in these waning days before Spring Training camp opens. But up until this point, it appeared Damon would have to settle for a one-year deal, despite agent Scott Boras' hopes of landing him a two-year commitment. Detroit reportedly made a one-year, $7 million offer to Damon, and Atlanta reportedly offered him a one-year deal worth between $4 million and $4.5 million, with a significant amount of deferred money.
The Tigers and Braves have not confirmed reports of their offers to Damon.
If Detroit has indeed upped the ante with a two-year offer to the 36-year-old Damon, it wouldn't be the first time Boras and the Tigers reached a late agreement for a star player.In 2004, clubs were reluctant to negotiate a multiyear agreement with catcher Ivan Rodriguez, a Boras client, because of concerns that his aging body wouldn't hold up to the grind of catching. The Tigers came through with a four-year, $40 million contract (though only two years and $19 million were guaranteed to Pudge). He played four strong years for the Tigers, batting .298 with 67 home runs and 268 RBIs while playing in at least 129 games each season. In 2005, Boras client Magglio Ordonez was the last prominent free agent available on the market, due to concerns about his surgically repaired right knee. The Tigers didn't just take a chance on him; they gave him a five-year, $75 million contract. He played just 82 games in 2005 but bounced back to play in an average of 147 games a season over the next four years. Ordonez topped 20 HRs and 100 RBIs each season from 2006-08 before dropping off last year, although he still hit well enough (.310 average) to vest his option for 2010. Both the Rodriguez and Ordonez contracts came shortly before the opening of Spring Training camp, so the Damon deal, if consummated, would not be without precedent. In fact, Boras' ties to the Tigers run deep, as he has also represented the likes of Kenny Rogers, Bobby Seay and Rick Porcello. And in Ilitch, Boras seems to have found a successful negotiating partner. "The thing I like to say," Boras said last week, "is that Mike knows his investments. His businesses are successful." It remains to be seen if the two sides will forge a successful agreement on Damon. Boras has attempted to sell Damon to the Tigers as the last piece they need to claim an AL Central title that has eluded them the last three years. He points to Damon's two World Series titles -- with the Red Sox in 2004 and the Yankees last fall -- as evidence that he is a winner. "I don't recommend players," Boras said, "unless I feel they can go there and do well." If the Tigers sign Damon, they could place him in their leadoff role, rather than handing that responsibility to youngster Austin Jackson. Damon batted .282 with 24 homers, 36 doubles, 82 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 143 games for the Yankees last season.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.