Last Wednesday, the Indians surprised the baseball world with the signing of veteran Johnny Damon. It was a boost to a lineup that going into the weekend was only batting .176, which ranks last in the major leagues. He was signed to give depth to the outfield before Grady Sizemore returns to the major leagues, but was a 38-year-old the answer to help this young team?
Damon is 277 hits shy of 3,000 hits and already punched his ticket to the Baseball Hall-of- Fame, so why is Damon trying to play this season when his better years are behind him?
Now Damon has been known to be great for a locker room, but he is not going to be much of an upgrade in the outfield with Shelley Duncan and Michael Brantley like he would have been about five years ago. Last season with the Rays, Damon batted .261 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs in 150 games. In more of a platoon role, Duncan batted .260 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in half the games Damon played. So let’s assume Duncan played a full season then he would have been on-pace to hit 22 home runs and 94 RBIs, which would have been six more home runs and 21 RBIs more than Damon. Plus Damon is a liability in the outfield with his below average arm strength. Duncan is hitting .304 with a .429 on-base percentage so with Michael Brantley’s slow start, centerfield could be the better option for Damon before Sizemore returns from the 60-day disabled list. Not sure if you want a 38-year-old covering that much ground in the outfield.
Manager Manny Acta should strongly consider keeping Duncan in the lineup and either having Damon in a reserve role or starting centerfield if Brantley. The Indians made a poor choice in giving Damon a $1.25 million contract so Acta is going to forced to play the 18-year veteran so this is going to turn into a toxic combination.