Johnny Damon is a popular subject lately, but not for good reasons.
It’s nearly February and Damon, coming off a very solid season, is finding his pool of potential suitors to be very, very shallow.
It was long assumed that Damon would return to the Yankees, but the signings of Nick Johnson and Randy Winn, coupled with the acquisition of Curtis Granderson have ultimately spelled the end of Damon’s tenure in the Bronx.
The Braves, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds have all been linked to Damon at some point this offseason, but right now there appears to be no legitimate offers on the table.
Damon entered the offseason seeking a three-to-four year deal at roughly the same $13 million per season he made on his last contract.
Needless to say, interest—at that price and length—was tepid, at best.
It was rumored that the Yankees and Damon were close on a two-year pact at one point, but by the time Damon and his agent, Scott Boras, were willing to accept the Bronx Bombers had already inked the aforementioned Johnson.
So where does that leave Damon now?
He’s coming off a very solid year where he put up a line of .282/.365/.489 with 24 home runs, 82 RBI, and 107 runs scored in 550 at-bats.
He is, however, a 36-year-old whose defense is politely described as inadequate and declining speed on the bases.
As such, he is widely-expected to sign something closer to the one-year, $5 million contract Bobby Abreu signed with the Angels last season to re-establish his market value.
This is where the Seattle Mariners come into the picture.
If the Mariners were to sign Damon it would be for one simple reason, the long ball.
As Damon’s speed has waned in recent years, he’s taken to swinging for the fences.
Damon’s home run totals in New York eclipse his totals elsewhere throughout his career.
In Damon’s six years in Kansas City he hit 65 home runs, four years in Boston netted Damon 56 long balls, his lone year in Oakland resulted in nine dingers, and in his four, free-swinging years in New York, Damon launched 77 balls into the seats.
Additionally, his career batting line received a nice boost playing the Bronx. Damon is a career .288/.355/.439 hitter, but in New York he put up an average line of .285/.363/.458, clearly Damon has thrived by implementing a “put it in cheap seats” mentality.
The Mariners projected lineup features some combination of Franklin Gutierrez, Milton Bradley, and Jose Lopez in the heart of the order.
That is if Lopez isn’t traded before Opening Day and if Milton Bradley can prove he belongs on a big league roster after last season’s implosion in Chicago.
Last year, the now-departed Russell Branyan led the team with 31 long balls and trade-candidate Lopez was second with 25 home runs.
After those two Ken Griffey (19), Gutierrez (18), and leadoff man, Ichiro Suzuki (11) rounded out the club’s top five in home runs.
If the Mariners—who seem primed to compete in the cutthroat American League West—want to have a legitimate shot at winning the club’s first pennant since the 2001, the lineup needs some more punch.
Damon just might be a perfect fit.
A rotation of Damon, Bradley, and Griffey at designated hitter and in left field sounds a lot more promising than relying on any one of the three consistently and, if rested and rotated properly, the trio could provide some serious offensive punch.
The Mariners have made some big strides this offseason and currently appear to be just one or two pieces away from becoming a legitimate powerhouse.
The club could still stand to add another starter to round out the rotation and a big bopper to infuse the middle of the order.
At the right price, Damon is exactly what Seattle is missing.