The New York Yankees found themselves with a major hole in their lineup with the recent news that left fielder Curtis Granderson will miss at least the next 10 weeks with a broken forearm. However, a familiar face is hoping to be his possible replacement, as Johnny Damon made a public plea to the team on Monday to be given a chance.
Under even the best-case scenario, he’ll be out until at least May, leaving the Yankees to find a replacement for the man who has hit 84 home runs during the past two seasons, representing the most in the majors.
Currently, the Yankees lack top-end options to replace Granderson. Aside from a few secondary prospects with no previous major league experience, the most likely candidates to replace him include veterans Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, who are both in their mid-30's and liabilities in the field.
Appearing on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s Michael Kay Show, Damon made a proposal to the Yankees, according to ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand:
You guys know that I would have tons of interest to go to New York. But I just don't think they would be interested. I'm not exactly sure what happened over the years or something. They have had plenty of opportunities and I kept raising my hand, wanting to go back and, you know, hopefully it would be a perfect fit. It always had been. Have me for six weeks and then send me off on my merry way. That's fine.
The unusual offer signaled Damon’s reluctance to officially call an end to his career, and demonstrates how badly he wants to remain in the game.
The 39-year-old is a veteran of 18 major league seasons with seven teams, including four years with the Yankees from 2006-2009.
His career numbers include a .284 batting average with 235 home runs, 1,139 RBI and 408 stolen bases. Part of his motivation for wanting to return could be his 2,769 career hits, which puts him within shouting distance of the 3,000 mark, a truly iconic number in baseball.
In 2009, his last season with the Yankees, Damon hit .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI in 143 games.
The left-handed Damon played in 64 games last season with the Cleveland Indians. However, he was cut in August after hitting just .222 with four home runs and 19 RBI.
Damon indicated he wouldn’t directly reach out to the Yankees, but was confident they would get wind of his idea through the media.
New York general manager Brian Cashman was reached via text message shortly after Damon’s remarks, and wrote, “Not at the moment,” when asked if he would have interest in bringing the veteran back to the Bronx.
Damon has clearly declined in recent years, as his batting average has gone down each season since 2008, when he hit .303 with the Yankees.
While he always had decent range in the outfield, his weak arm always made him a below-average defensive player.
Damon has been campaigning for a major league roster spot since the start of last offseason, telling NESN.com, “I liked being home last season with my kids. But I’m in shape and if I could play, I would. We’ll see what happens. I still think I have something left if I am used the right way.”
It appears that the Yankees plan to see if they have a fit already in their organization before moving on to external options, as Cashman texted Marchand that he planned to “look at what we have.”
With spring training just getting underway, the Yankees could ultimately decide they need a player like Damon, who is experienced and willing to play for cheap. Until then, he plans to stay ready, confiding to the Michael Kay Show, “I just want to play.”
Statistics via BaseballReference