"Can we just let the Johnny Damon-to-Braves rumors die?...
"But it's a bit unreasonable (and perfectly designed to bring my hopes up before crushing them into a burning pile of flames), don't you think?
"I get that Wren could be bluffing by saying he has nothing else to spend, but with the market being as it is and the Braves being in the market that they are (i.e. poor attendance), that just doesn't seem to be the case."
This is a direct quote from this article I wrote just three (soon to be four) days ago.
Now I'm not saying that I'm rescinding all of that just yet (and the crushing my dreams part seems to be coming true), but I'm now really starting to think about Johnny Damon in Atlanta.
Thinking hard about it.
Even though I still think a Damon return to the Yankees (despite "budget" concerns on the Yankees' part) is coming, several reports have indicated that the Braves, who had virtually said they were done for the offseason not even two weeks ago, are still talking to the veteran outfielder.
One report, Frankie Piliere of FanHouse, even suggests that talks are "progressing."
And with the level of secrecy the Braves have carried this offseason, there is a distinct possibility that Frank Wren and Scott Boras, who have a historically good relationship, could be in a back room somewhere hammering out the details on a contract (one I would expect to be one year at $4 to $7 million, with a mutual option for 2011).
As I just said, I think the Yankees are still the likely spot for Damon (and I would probably put the Tigers a little ahead of the Braves as well), but imagine this as the Braves' Opening Day lineup with the formerly bearded wonder:
LF L Johnny Damon
2B R Martin Prado
3B S Chipper Jones
1B R Troy Glaus
C L Brian McCann
SS R Yunel Escobar
CF L Nate McLouth
RF L OR R Jason Heyward OR Matt Diaz
Obviously, the Braves would be forced to make a move with either Matt Diaz or Melky Cabrera (both of whom have nice, new, arbitration-avoiding contracts...and by moving either of these guys, the Braves would technically only be adding $2 to $4 million to their payroll) before Opening Day if the Braves choose to allow Jason Heyward to start the season in the majors (and before Heyward's call-up, otherwise), but that's not what I'm focusing on here.
What I'm focusing on is Damon's potential for 35 to 40 doubles and five to 10 triples (with 12 to 20 stolen bases at a batting average of about .280) and how they would be an awesome addition to a Braves team that features a ton of slap-hitters and only a few big-time power threats (maybe three).
I'm looking at the "winning attitude" he would bring to the clubhouse.
And the influence the 36-year-old would have on the left-hand hitting prodigy J-word (shout-out to Michael Arm for that one).
I said in The Atlanta Braves' Outfield in 2010: Who Ya Got? concerning Damon that "... if he were to drop his asking price to maybe one year at six or seven million...it would make a lot of sense for the Braves." With Adam LaRoche taking a small deal to go to Arizona (a much bigger power threat than Damon) and Aubrey Huff taking away a serious suitor for Damon in the Giants, it seems that this very thing may have happened.
I'll say it for a third time, though (get that I'm trying to emphasize this): I am still hesitant to call Damon anything other than a Yankee (even with the chances of that diminishing as I write this), but the whispers going around...well...everywhere have really gotten me thinking that this could be an almost perfect match for both parties.
The girly arm is not a plus, but extra-base hits and fair speed?
Gimme (especially if my price guess is close to right).
Well, provided he grows the beard and hair back, that is.