Exploring the Rays and Johnny Damon…again. | The Process Report

Exploring the Rays and Johnny Damon…again.

This off-season, the Rays were rumored to be a finalist for the services of Johnny Damon. Instead of Tampa Bay, Damon joined the Detroit Tigers on a one-year deal worth $8 million. While the following is pure speculation, it looks like those rumors may heat up once again.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Damon is currently passing through waivers – along with fellow Tiger Brandon Inge. Should Damon clear, it is almost certain the Rays will be among the teams to give Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski a call.

A few days ago, we looked at the Rays possibly adding Manny Ramirez. At his projected .408 weighted on-base average (wOBA) over 150 plate appearances, Ramirez would be worth one addition win to the Rays on offense compared to Dan Johnson*. While Damon is not projected to be a worth a full win to the Rays, he would be in the neighborhood of a half-win improvement over Johnson.

*Assuming full-time designated hitter role.

Currently, Damon has a wOBA of .349. This is a drop from his .376 last season as a member of the New York Yankees, but within a few points of his .351 average. Despite his .274 batting average being lower than his .288 career average, Damon’s .361 on-base percentage is actually higher than his normal .355 – thanks to a solid 11.8% walk rate. His sluggling percentage is down from both a season ago and career rates; meanwhile, his .142 Isolated Power (ISO) is within range of his .150 career number.

He would not carry the heavy stick of a Jim Thome at the DH spot, however, Damon’s gap power and above-average on-base skills would certainly upgrade the position for the Rays. After all, that is all the Rays are looking for. They don’t need Damon to hit like he did in a Yankee uniform; just be better than the present options available to the team. He also comes with American League East pedigree, which isn’t a requirement, but nice to have on the resume.

Assuming Damon does clear waivers, his new team would be on the hook for around $2 million, plus potential trade compensation. On the other hand, there will be the usual suspect of teams (Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox) who could throw out a block before the Rays get a chance. As was the case with Ramirez, the added salary is worth the potential reward to the Rays – even if Damon is just half a win more valuable than the current alternatives.

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