Countdown to The Draft
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By: T.J. Zuppe
Desperate times call for desperate measures. For a club that is not concerned about their offense yet, their actions are speaking differently.
Internet reports have tied the Cleveland Indians and free-agent outfielder / designated hitter Johnny Damon together. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the Tribe was working on coming to terms with the 38-year old veteran player, early Thursday morning.
Those rumors had not been confirmed by the Tribe, nor has any signing been announced.
Damon hit .261 last year with the Tampa Bay Rays, with 16 home runs and 73 runs batted in. He is a career .286 hitter over 17 seasons.
First, it is important to note a possible addition of the two-time all-star is an upgrade – but a very limited one. He provides a better alternative offensively than what the club already has on its roster.
Though his on-base percentage dropped to .326 last season, Damon’s pop and ability to swipe a few bags is still in-tact. Opposing pitchers still have to respect him in the box.
He can instantly impact a locker room, a place where the Indians sorely lack strong leadership.
Damon also has the hardware – a couple World Series rings from the 2004 and 2009 seasons.
Those intangibles – paired with his ability to swing the bat – certainly makes the Tribe a better club with him, than without him. But how much better does he truly make them?
There are parts of his game that make his upside limited. What type of player he is defensively is a big question mark.
He has only played 52 games in the outfield over the last two years. That includes only 16 games last year, all in left-field.
His arm has never been confused with a cannon. In short, it is non-existent.
Can he hold up playing left on a semi-regular basis? No doubt, manager Manny Acta would expect him to be able to play the outfield in addition to getting some at-bats at DH.
On top of that, he swings from the left-side of the dish. *Insert left-handed heavy lineup jokes here.*
Bottom line, expectations in his possible addition need tempered. He provides a slight upgrade, but certainly does not take the team to the next level. At this point in his career, Damon is small notch above an average player.
To expect an impact above that level is foolish. He is no longer that type of guy.
What this move really reeks of? Desperation.
The offense has been underwhelming – and that is putting it nicely. Though only five games in, concern is setting in, despite what Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti have said.
To consider adding Damon, fingers cannot be far from the panic button.
That decision says more about the current state of the team than any post-game press conference. The front-office is attempting to remedy the issue, before it becomes a larger problem.
In the short term, it should help.
If you can answer the question, “does this make our team better” with a yes, it is hard to argue with the logic.
And he clearly does.
But Damon is not the cure to every Indians’ ailment. Those have to come from within, because they were not fully addressed in the off-season.
T.J. Zuppe covers the Cleveland Indians for ESPN 850 WKNR. Catch TJ on Munch in the Morning weekdays from 4:30a.m.-6:00a.m. on ESPN 850 WKNR and 8:00a.m.-9:00a.m. on ESPN 1540 KNR2.
Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe
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