Maybe it’s not quite a daily occurrence, but there is certainly no free agent who has sparked more Yankees discussion this winter than Johnny Damon.
Hideki Matsui signed with the Angels, and that sparked a solid week of conversation (and still generates the occasional impassioned comment). There was some prolonged excitement about the possibility of Ben Sheets or Justin Duchscherer coming to New York. Matt Holliday was a rather lengthy pipedream. Xavier Nady’s name still pops up now and then. Jose Molina might as well be playing professional badminton for all the talk he’s generated.
Then there’s Damon, the one player in the bunch who Brian Cashman has all but said the Yankees are not interested in bringing back.
But … you never know, and fans aren’t the only ones who still see Damon-back-to-the-Bronx as a possibility. There are plenty of writers and broadcasters who are writing and saying the same thing.
For now, the latest team connected to Damon is Detroit. Now that the Tigers have signed Jose Valverde to solidify the ninth inning, they are said to be shifting their focus to the lineup. With Damon, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers could create a solid DH/OF rotation among some veterans.
Of course, the Braves are also still closely linked to Damon. Atlanta has enough outfielders to fill the lineup, but adding Damon would give them Damon in left, Nate McLouth in center and Matt Diaz in right. That would leave Melky Cabrera as a strong fourth outfielder, Eric Hinske as a four-corners utility man and give prospect Jason Heyward some time in Triple-A (where he has just 24 at-bats in his career, most of them in last year’s International League playoffs).
The Yankees other outfield options haven’t changed much. Brett Gardner remains the front-runner for left field, while the free agent market still offers Nady, Reed Johnson, Randy Winn, Marcus Thames, Jerry Hairston Jr. and plenty of others.