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Johnny Damon’s MLB Return Draws Interest; Bad Fit for New York Yankees

July 4th, 2014 at 7:17 PM
By Michael Moraitis

Johnny Damon may be contemplating a return to Major League Baseball at the age of 40 and is making some noise in the process, but there's no chance his comeback will be with the New York Yankees.

CBS New York is reporting Damon's desire to return to the game because he simply isn't ready to retire yet and feels he can still play:

“When you feel you can still outhit at least half the league and you don’t get that call, it’s rough,” Damon told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday. “The biggest reason to play is to have a chance to win. Obviously, 3,000 hits would be great but winning is the reason I started playing this game. I’m going to continue to stay in shape and I’ll be ready.”

Damon last played in 2012 for the Cleveland Indians and his numbers proved anything but his ability to swing the stick like he used to.

He posted a dreadful .222 average and hit four homers with 19 RBI in 64 games. His OBP was even worse at .281. Now, Damon is two years older and it's doubtful that his bat speed has picked up or he's in better shape physically.

Not to mention, his defense has always been lackluster and the speed he had in the outfield that used to make up for it won't be the same.


A Damon-Yankees Reunion?

If Damon were to return to New York, there's little room for him in the outfield and designated hitter role.

The Bronx Bombers already have two Gold Glove caliber, everyday outfielders in Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner taking two spots in the lineup. On top of that, the Yanks can rotate Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano to fill the other position.

Carlos Beltran would normally be in that mix, but his elbow issues have held him to DH duty only. Granted, he is struggling at the plate in 2014, but the Yanks are paying Beltran too much to platoon him with the likes of Damon.

Even at some of his worst, Beltran is a bigger threat with much more talent in the batter's box at this stage in his career than the aging Damon. The same can be said for the various veterans New York likes to start at DH to get a half of a day off now and again.

Everywhere you look, Damon just creates a logjam for the Bronx Bombers and that spells disaster for any prospects he may have with his former team, offensive struggles or not.

It was nice to see his return to Yankee stadium in the pinstripes on Old Timer's Day in June, but that will be the extent of his return in a Yankee uniform.


Damon Creating Buzz

That doesn't mean Damon won't be a good fit anywhere. After all, there will be teams looking for a cheap bat near the end of July and if the trade market doesn't work out, Damon can be a low-risk opportunity for teams to take on.

Despite the negativity above, it's fair to mention that Damon is drawing some interest around the league, per the same CBS New York article:

Rob Potts, a batting practice pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, ran into Damon last month in Wilmington, Delaware. Damon was there because his number was retired by the Single-A Blue Rocks that night. Potts ended up throwing to Damon for about 15 minutes in the stadium and came away so impressed that he told Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to check him out. The Phillies, who are stuck in last place, signed Grady Sizemore a week later.

“Johnny looks like he could play today,” Potts said. “His last swing, he said: ‘I’m gonna go yard’ and he just turned on it. You can’t teach someone how to win a World Series and he’s won two. He’s a great clubhouse guy, had success playing in the bright lights in New York and Boston. In the ninth inning in a pressure situation, I’d still want to have Johnny Damon hitting for me.”

While you can knock his 2012 numbers and his overall chances at succeeding at the age of 40, you can't knock the fact that Damon will be one of the most experienced players available as the MLB trade deadline approaches.

That, his quest for 3,000 hits and the fact that there is a nice buzz around him and what he may have left will force a team to take a flyer on the 40-year-old at some point this season.

Tags: Alfonso Soriano, Baseball, Carlos Beltran, Ichiro Suzuki, Johnny Damon, MLB, New York, New York Yankees

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