Luke Scott can play first base, so there was still the possibility that Johnny Damon could have been brought back to DH if another first baseman wasn’t available. That is, until Damon spoke with Marc Topkin.

“It’s an unhappy day…Didn’t realize the DH and 1B brought the offense down. Thought we would’ve had an offer…Obviously, I love playing there, but for some reason they’re looking for a DH and a first baseman…And I thought Kotchman and I were probably the two more consistent guys in the lineup last year. I know they want to upgrade the offense, but the offense is going to be fine as long as there’s some production from the catching spot and shortstop…”

We should point out that these were just part of Damon’s comments (you can read the rest at TampaBay.com). And all of the comments were delivered via text. Now, this is just speculation, but we’d say Damon is kinda pissed off. It takes a lot of energy to send that many texts. Unless of course Damon had Siri send them, but we digress.

But the big take-home point here is that Damon is saying what we are all thinking. The Rays priority should be in upgrading shortstop and catcher. Unfortunately for Damon though, those positions have young (cheap) in-house candidates, and first base and DH do not.

That being said, it is a little perplexing that Damon never even received an offer. Is Scott that much of an upgrade over Damon? At his best, sure. But there are some big question marks. And it sounds like Damon would have been willing to play for a reduced rate.

 
 

19 Comments

  1. zenny says:

    This could be a big mistake for a team that depends so much on chemistry and staying loose. You lose a clubhouse leader and replace him with a guy who has a history of running off his mouth in public, especially about things political. Agree with him or not, it can be very disruptive to bring politics into any workplace.

    And that’s not even talking about his on-field performance. As we saw with BJ, shoulder injuries / surgeries can affect a player’s swing for a long time.

    • Greg says:

      This is exactly what I’m thinking. Scott is 34 in June and coming off a shoulder injury. Those can take a while to heal. Still haven’t heard what we signed him for – just that there are incentives involved. Scott should hit some homers but he played 12 games at 1B last year. I don’t think he’ll play that much 1B for the Rays. He isn’t strong defensively in the OF, so I’m pretty sure this is our DH. We still need a first baseman.

  2. Martin B says:

    You can never believe a word Johnny Damon says, especially if it comes to money.

    While I will never begrudge a player who goes to the highest bidder, Johnny Damon has shown that he is not above doing so with his infamous Red Sox/Yankees switch.

    Damon is in it for Damon, and frankly, good riddance. He’s not a DH and probably shouldn’t have a Major League job anymore.

  3. Neal says:

    Amen. We lose our veteran leadership and bring in a birther. Not a fan of this move at all. I really wanted to see Johnny get to retire here.

  4. Don says:

    His comments were EXACTLY what I have been saying all along..
    Rays spent all their time and energy trying to upgrade two positions that they were ok with….in the mean time letting SS & catcher going to 3/4 players with little ability and making nothing… I’ll put Damon & kotchmans numbers up against anyone they sign to DH & 1st base..except one set of numbers that is PAY$…you can add up all the salaries for 1b, SS, DH and catcher and it wouldn’t be what Damon made last year….

    your better off Damon you might catch a franchise that will pay you for your talents and leadership and future HOF inductee

    • John S says:

      HOF… nahhh sorry

    • J W says:

      Damon’s BA and OBP declined for the third straight year last year. He had a sub .750 OPS last year and will be turning 38 this upcoming baseball season. He’s a player who’s clearly on the decline, offers no defensive skills any more and doesn’t hit well enough to really warrant a full time DH job. Scott, while not perfect, probably will cost similar to even possibly cheaper than what Damon was seeking, and his upside far exceeds what Damon can offer at this time. Nothing wrong with this move at all.

      • Andy says:

        When it comes to DH production, we need to be realistic – Damon probably gave us as good as we can expect, unless we pay for Vlad. Only a few guys really excel at this position; the rest try but don’t adjust to the part-time feel of the role. Then some, who are not committed to it, end up like Pat the Gnat – do it grudgingly w/little success. Sounds like we got some of the latter in Scott as this quote from the Rays’ site indicates – “he wasn’t quite ready to become a full-time DH”. I hope I’m proven wrong, but this may end up being a mistake :(

  5. Sam says:

    I don’t know how to feel about this…. I really don’t, I enjoyed having Johnny Damon on the team, but I don’t think he delivered offensively as well as he could have. He’s on his decline, there’s no doubt. To bring in Luke Scott, well I don’t know how good of a move that is. My guess is they are just gonna be swapping spots, no real vast improvement that the team should have been looking for. I think this lowers the chances of Kotchman coming back… even though he was the most consistent hitter in the lineup. Kotchman should have been signed before Scott and the catching position should have been handled better than signing Molina… even though he is great defensively. The best that can happen this season is for the rest of the team to show up… that’s what was lacking. If we get improvement from both Rodriguez and Brignac and BJ starts hitting consistenly…. the Luke Scott signing won’t be that big of a deal. Sign Kotchman… he’s the defense we need and the defense this team prides itself on.

  6. Sarah says:

    Seems to me his comments just indicate disappointment — whether because he particularly loves Tampa Bay or because he sees Tampa Bay as his only chance to sign with a team I don’t know. But I don’t know why you see his comments as slamming the door. He’s just saying he thought he offered something of value last year,would like the chance to be back, and is disappointed that he’s not been made an offer.

  7. Joe says:

    I was saying this last night. Maybe, Scott wont be our new “standard of defense” at 1B, he can play there meaning the door was still open a crack and Damon slammed it shut.

  8. Lauren says:

    See, as a Sox fan, I am not surprised at the whining. You get used to it after awhile, guys. At least he’s not whining about how mean Fenway Park is this time…
    Seriously, Damon is the biggest whiner in baseball. And the biggest media chaser. And the fact that he’s whining today should surprise no one who has been paying attention…
    You should be excited about Scott. Think of the “great Scott!” puns in your future!

  9. Dan R says:

    Not sure where I read it, or if it is even true, but I was under impression the Rays prefer a lefty throwing 1st baseman, which would seem to rule out multiple players listed recently, including for the most part Scott.

  10. Beth says:

    Dear Johnny: Sorry you are so disappointed. But let me ask you something: if another team had already offered you $5 million to play, would you have said “absolutely not! I must finish out my career with the Tampa Bay Rays!”?

    I didn’t think so.

    So, baseball is a business when you want to sign with the Yankees for big bucks. But it suddenly shouldn’t be about business — it should be about letting the fans develop long term affection for their heroes! — when you are getting the short end of the stick.

    Also, while you are correct that the Rays suffered from poor production from the catcher and short stop positions last year, you must realize that many teams value strong defensive skills in those roles, and unless they are lucky with prospects or can pay big time, they will often accept lower averages and less power from those positions. On the other hand, DH and first base are largely (well, for DH, entirely) offensive power positions, and although you and Kotchman were among the Rays better hitters last year (honestly, not saying much) the Rays didn’t get the sort of production from those positions they’ll need if they are going to compete. With your analysis of the team’s deficits, let’s just say I hope you are not anticipating a front office career.

  11. Scot says:

    It’s pretty simple. JD wasn’t worth the money he received and it is unlikely he will improve. This was a easy call for the Rays.

    Now on the otherhand, Luke Scott?

  12. Tom says:

    Beth, you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Johnny Damon added much to the Rays and the Rays made a terrible decision not to offer him something to bring him back. Bad move by the Rays. Damon is a good solid player.

  13. Dustin says:

    Tom, what exactly did Damon add to the Rays? According to Fangraphs, Damon posted a .743 OPS and 1.5 WAR last year. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they’re nothing to get too excited about (for comparison, in 2011 Sean Rodriguez posted a .680 OPS and was good for 2.3 WAR last year; Shoppach’s OPS was only .607 with a 1.1 WAR; Carlos Pena’s OPS was .837 with a 2.6 WAR; and in 2010, the last season during which he was healthy, Luke Scott put up an OPS of .935 and was good for 2.7 WAR).

    Maybe Damon was an important clubhouse contributor. That sort of thing is tough to quantify. Here’re are a few things that are knowable about him: he can’t really field a position anymore; he doesn’t run like he used to; his AVG, OBP, and SLG have all declined each of the past three years; and he’s likely not going to be as good next year as the guys the Rays picked up to replace him. Damon’s a likeable player, but I think it made all the sense in the world for the Rays to let him walk.

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