Braves need to make a run at Johnny Damon

How much better would Braves' lineup be with Johnny Damon?

How much better would Braves' lineup be with Johnny Damon?

So I listened to Braves general manager Frank Wren on 790 The Zone Wednesday  morning, hearing him touch on many of the same themes he said two weeks ago when I spoke to him about the team’s offseason moves,  and he concluded, “I think we’re better.”

I don’t agree. Most don’t agree. When  a team adds Billy Wagner, Troy Glaus and Melky Cabrera and subtracts Javier Vazquez, Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, the math doesn’t work out.

If Wren really wants to convince people the Braves will be better this season, here’s an idea: sign Johnny Damon.

Barring any significant move, this team has three significant questions going into the season: Leadoff hitter (Nate McLouth), cleanup hitter (Glaus) and closer (Wagner). McLouth looked average for most of last season. Glaus and Wagner represent medical roulette.

I haven’t written much on Damon in

Should the Braves sign Johnny Damon?

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part because it was presumed he would simply re-sign with the New York Yankees and, with Scott Boras as his agent, he would ask for an obscene amount of money on the open market. But he’s still out there, with spring training a month away. The asking price — once believed to be in the two-year, $14 million range — almost certainly has come way down.

The Braves are at their self-imposed payroll limit ($90 million). But there’s a difference between being fiscally smart and just plain cheap. Adding Damon makes the Braves better. If they’re better, they win more games and sell more tickets. Maybe they even make the playoffs.

Now there’s a concept.

The Braves have not had a legitimate leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal left town after the 2005 season. That’s also the last season they made the playoffs. Funny how that works out.

When I asked Wren about Damon a couple of weeks ago, he said only, “We like the way our club has come together.”

How can that be with so many questions? Damon is 36. He is not a long-term solution. This is about now. He  hit .282 last season with an on-base percentage of .365. He also tied a career-high with 24 homers (granted, aided by the short right field in new Yankee Stadium) and had 82 RBI, third-most in his career. McLouth could still start in center field. Damon could play in left. Jason Heyward: right field. Melky Cabrera? We’ve got your resume, we’ll get back to you.

The Braves have questions, and right now Wren is just counting on too many things going right. Damon eliminates one of the doubts.

305 comments Add your comment

Frist

January 20th, 2010
10:54 am

Greg

January 20th, 2010
10:55 am

matt

January 20th, 2010
10:55 am

Jeff- Damon also hit in front of Jeter, A-Rod and Tex. 3 very good reasons to pitch to him and not give him a free pass. I doubt they will be as scared with the BRaves lineup.

Frist

January 20th, 2010
10:56 am

Whew, by a nose. Now what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Johnny Damon. OK by me. They got Glaus cheap enough.

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
10:56 am

Frist, Greg — We’ll have to go to the judges. Photo finish …. Oh, it’s Frist by a nose!

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
10:56 am

Folks.. just added a poll. Forgot to do that earlier.

Frist

January 20th, 2010
10:57 am

I just winged that comment based on the headline only. Now I’ll go back and read the post.

Big J

January 20th, 2010
10:58 am

I see there is no drug testing at the AJC! Why would we add a 5th outfielder that isn’t very good? Frank Wren has already made me lose hope on this season. I hat to be negative but that is the truth.

By the way…Arbitration made the Vasquez trade that much worse! How the hell is Cabrera making over 3 million? He probably won’t even be playing!

Frist

January 20th, 2010
11:01 am

OK, I’ve read it. Johnny Damon. OK by me. They got Glaus cheap enough.

Blindog

January 20th, 2010
11:01 am

If not Damon,maybe Edmonds??

matt

January 20th, 2010
11:01 am

No salary cap, arbitration, and the home team failing to put together a contender, 3 great reasons to not watch baseball.

The fact that Holliday makes more money than Pujols is ridiculous. Baseball has got to put a salary cap in place. I’m not interested in watching the Yankees buy more championhsips

Reid Adair

January 20th, 2010
11:03 am

You’re exactly right, Jeff. Contrary to another one of Frank Wren’s lies, the Braves are not better than they were in 2009. Most fans I know can see that clearly.

If he truly like the way his “club has come together,” then that should eliminate any and all doubt that he is in over his head with this job.

Ginger

January 20th, 2010
11:05 am

Like that move…Sign Damon !!! You can’t win if you don’t score.

Don Gill

January 20th, 2010
11:08 am

C’mon. Too old. Too much money. Imagine what if we hadn’t traded Tex away. Good ex Braves that would comprise a very good team are all around the league.

Poorbrave

January 20th, 2010
11:09 am

Yes sign Damon…do something good, so far everything is maybe, if, whatever, the Braves are not better unless everything goes great and we know thats not happening.
If not Damon go get Uggla he just signed 7 million contract. Other wise everyone stay home and forget the loser Braves.

Bristol Palin 2012

January 20th, 2010
11:10 am

Scott Boras ruins any good deal right off the bat

PMC

January 20th, 2010
11:10 am

of course, they need someone to set the table and McClouth is a better hitter when not in the leadoff spot anyway. He probably should be a doubles machine.

Marc in FL

January 20th, 2010
11:12 am

Meh, put Diaz in leadoff, he’s a better hitter and don’t forget, he led our team with 12 steals last year!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

January 20th, 2010
11:12 am

They need a sparkplug for the offense in the lineup and in the clubhouse. Damon would make your job a little easier w/ the oneliners he would give you. Also he has always been a goodhitter, no matter where he hit. Remember his formative years were w/ the Royals and he was a pretty dang good ballplayer.

No More Past-Their-Prime Players, Please

January 20th, 2010
11:13 am

Jeff, if the Braves wanted a weak hitting outfielder with no arm, they can pull plenty of them from their farm system and pay them the league minimum. The Braves already have a plethora of Johnny Damon-like players currently in their outfield. The last thing they need is another one who will cost them a few million this season.

If the Braves really want to make a run at the playoffs (which, at this point, I’m not sure they really do), they will let Heyward start the season in RF and take his lumps in April. If the Braves took this approach with Hanson, it’s not a stretch to say that the Braves win the wildcard last season.

With all that said, the Braves have become a budget-constrained team seen only as an investment and/or tax write-off for their corporate owner. So, you will not see Heyward until at least June, and you will such much, much worse players manning the outfield at the Ted on their way to another 80-85 win season, at best.

nickz

January 20th, 2010
11:14 am

If we can get Damon for under $4 mil, we should. A 3 man rotation of Diaz, Damon and Cabrera on the corner outfield spots isn’t too bad at all until Heyward is ready for the majors.

UGA 2010

January 20th, 2010
11:16 am

Definitly maybe Edmonds, he would add power to our team, hell the name does already

NebrBravesFan

January 20th, 2010
11:17 am

I don’t know how Wren can say they are better with a straight face. To me they are only better if all the best case scenarios happen. Not sure if Damon is the answer, but your spot on Jeff the Braves need to do something to elicit hope. Unless they come out of the gate smoking hot I dont see the fans jumping up and down to see a game and then you have the front office crying they have no money as a result – a vicious circle!

Kennesaw Fan

January 20th, 2010
11:17 am

the only reason damon hit 24 hrs is because he was playing in that band box that is the new yankee stadium

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:22 am

Matt — Damon’s BA and OBP are pretty consistent. Only his power numbers spiked last year.

kenny

January 20th, 2010
11:23 am

who cares. the braves ownership doesnt. by the time college football get under way, they will be out of it. Bobby deserved better in his last year.

Kashi

January 20th, 2010
11:23 am

Yeah, I too agree with many fans. If braves don’t sign any power hitter this year then Braves will lose games and revenue by large. There will be lots of empty seats and parkings. No one likes to go to game and spend $60 (min/per) when there is a 70% or more chance of losing a game.

Marty

January 20th, 2010
11:24 am

Wren says the braves are better. Jeff, you don’t agree. Got it. Most don’t agree? Uh, I disagree with you. Going into 2010 they are easily better than going into 2009. Many people agree…go read Bleacher Report, Talking Chop, etc. Mark Bowman agrees. There are people that can remove emotion and consider the moves objectively. An eternal pessimist never will.

Additionally, self imposed budget? Budgets are budgets. I want a Mercedes but my “self imposed budget” has me driving a Dodge.

“Spend more and they will come” is not a strategy. How about more Braves “fans” actually go to the games. When we won 14 division titles the Braves could barely draw 2.5 million in attendance. The last time the Braves drew 3 Million was in 2000. Yep, we WON many years after that and could not draw 3 Million. Until we can draw 3 Million or very close to it on a consistent basis we will be a mid-market team with REAL, not self imposed, budgets.

It’s bad when I’d prefer to read something from Bradley.

Idiot.

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:24 am

Thanks Reid.

DV

January 20th, 2010
11:24 am

Really? Damon would hit 10-15 HR playing outside of Yankee Stadium. Heyward in right, McClouth in center, Cabrera/Diaz platoon in left. That’s about as good as it can get for the Braves OF this year. And that’s adeqaute considering how the OF’s been the last few seasons.

Joshhh...

January 20th, 2010
11:25 am

I actually agree with you Jeff, but I don’t think you can just squash Diaz out of this.

I’d like to see us sign Damon & use Melky off the bench or trade him.

The way Diaz hit last year you can’t just push him to the side. I’d love to see this (assuming Heyward isn’t in the starting lineup):

1. Damon
2. Prado
3. C. Jones
4. Glaus
5. McCann
6. Escobar
7. McLouth
8. Diaz

That’s a pretty good looking lineup!

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:26 am

No More Past Their Prime — Even at 36, can you name one player in the Braves’ organization that is better leadoff hitter today than Johnny Damon?

DCbravosfan

January 20th, 2010
11:28 am

whatever happened to Jordan Shaeffer?? Didn’t he get some seasoning in the minors last year? Why splurge on another old bat? Get some of the kids up and give them a shot? More payroll means higher ticket prices. Higher prices means even fewer fans, especially in this economy. The Bravos aren’t cheaping out by going with the guys they got. Get the kid in there!!!

JSides

January 20th, 2010
11:28 am

I think Damon would be good for a lead off hitter. Only thing that worries me is his defense. I don’t think its a bad move if you can get him for 3-4 mill a year. I would bat Damon first, Escobar second, Diaz third, Chipper 4th, Glaus 5th, Brian Mc 6th, Mclouth and Prado 7 and 8. Trade Melky :D

.

January 20th, 2010
11:28 am

The Braves are dead meat. Nothing to get excited about anymore. Wren and Braves management sucks big time. All talk and no do.

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:28 am

NickZ — I don’t know about Edmonds. His BA the last 3 seasons: .257, .252, .235.

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:28 am

Kennesaw Fan — Good point about Damon’s HR numbers. But I think he’d still hit 12 to 15 here.

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:31 am

Marty — Could’ve done without the “idiot” comment. What’s the point of that? And this statement: “Many people agree…go read Bleacher Report, Talking Chop, etc. Mark Bowman agrees.” … Not true.

Dan

January 20th, 2010
11:31 am

I live in NYC area. Have seen Damon alot.Not being surrounded by Yankees will expose Damon for what he really is- an average 36 yr. old player who has definitely peaked career-wise. The Braves DO NOT need another guy whose best years are behind him

Jeff Schultz

January 20th, 2010
11:32 am

DCBravosfan — I get the feeling Schafer is starting the year in Gwinnett.

Jim in Ponte Vedra

January 20th, 2010
11:34 am

Maybe Johnny would knock of a mill. or two if the Bravos let him grow his hair back out.

Marty

January 20th, 2010
11:35 am

April 2009 vs April 2010

Left Field – Anderson versus Cabreera/Diaz – All but the same offensively. Cabrera brings much better defense to the table.

Center Field – Schaefer versus McLouth – No brainer, McLouth is the better option

Left Feild – Frenchy versus Heyward/Diaz – I’ll take Heyward any day of the week. Look, he’ll hit .265 with 20 dongs. Period.

First Base – Kotch versus Glaus – Uh, again, much better option. Glaus is not injury prone, he is coming back from an injury. Big difference. When healthy he hits 30 long balls. Kotch can barely get it to the grass.

Second Base – KJ versus Martin – Prado has proven he is a legit offensive first baseman. We are much better entering the season.

Starting Pitching – Lowe/Javy/JJ/KK/JoJo versus Lowe/Huddy/JJ/KK/Hanson – You have to be an idiot to not think 2010 is better.

Bullpen – All but the same other than the swap of Gonzo and Soriano for Wagner and Saito. I recognize the old guys have some ???. But going into 2009 so did Gonzo and Soriano…both coming back from major injuries. Kimbrel will be ready to go as the closer in 2011 so I like the one year contracts versus the costs asociated with Gonzo and Soriano.

There are a ton of players I would have rather had. Heck, it would be awesome to have kept Javy and signed Bay or Holliday and signed Gonzo but there is a business reality that has to be dealt with. All things considered, I think Wren has done a fine job. In 2009 and 2010.

SHJ

January 20th, 2010
11:35 am

McClouth will be better this year if healthy,but all the moves made in the off season seem to me to be a step back.I think too much depends on Glaus & Wagner staying healthy.Trade Melky and free up some money to go get Damon!!

Bill

January 20th, 2010
11:36 am

Marty, You’re the Idiot!
Jeff thanks for the blog on Damon. Its time someone gives a true point of view, not a yes man. I agree with you on Damon and enjoy your sports blogs.

jon

January 20th, 2010
11:38 am

Enter your comments here

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 20th, 2010
11:39 am

Johnny Damon is 36 years old and let’s be honest, the Braves are in rebuilding mode. Rebuilding takes 2 or 3 years, plus the Braves are also in skinflint owner mode and decreasing payroll. If ownership is really committed to winning, and I don’t think they are, they’ll pass on Damon and keep building a team that might be ready in a couple of years. Damon will most likely be done by then.

It is sort of interesting that everyone preaches patience with the Falcons but want to win right now with the Braves. The Falcons appear to be building from a much better base than the Braves, yet people are willing to give them time.

Supes

January 20th, 2010
11:39 am

Jeff, you’ve lost your mind. But that’s typical most of your stuff seem written out of pure boredom.

I’d rather have Melky who is just about to ENTER the prime of his career and is better defensively than Damon (who had a power boost from the launchpad that is NY Stadium), Damon is near the end. Braves need to get YOUNGER, more Athletic and better defensively.

Plus, if you trade Melky then you really HAVE NOTHING to show for dealing Vazquez, except 1 reliever and a top tier low A ball pitching prospect (we know how those pan out most of the time).

An outfield of Melky, Nate and Heyward is what’s going to be your opening day lineup for those positions with Matty Diaz being the 4th OF.

Braves are JUST fine like Wren says, he knows far more than you’ll ever LEARN about how to build a major league roster and manage a payroll.

.

January 20th, 2010
11:39 am

go ahead jon…its ok.

jon

January 20th, 2010
11:41 am

Jeff, he has no arm, not a great fielder, and had power at “new Yankee stadium” enough said!

Pitching, pitching, pitching!!!!!!! You have got to do tour homework!

.

January 20th, 2010
11:41 am

Supes how do you know how much Wren knows compared to Jeff. Where did you get your smarts?