Johnny Damon was ahead of his time.
As spring training approached in February of 2010, Damon was still without a job despite coming off a fine season, in which he set some career highs. He hit .282/.365/.489 with a career-high 24 homers, 107 runs scored and 12-for-12 in the stolen-base department, good for a 3.5 WAR season by either main measure.
He had obvious deficiencies — his defense had deteriorated, which isn’t a great sign for a 36-year-old — but the positives outweighed the negatives, and so he supposedly rejected a two-year, $14 million deal and tested the open market.
The test lasted far longer than anybody anticipated.
(How long did it last?)
It lasted so long that Kenny Williams made the rare move of entering the fray for a Scott Boras client. Teams joined the Damon derby, they left the Damon derby, but some got their hands stamped and re-entered for free.
It dragged on so long that the White Sox, after letting Jim Thome go to the Twins for no good reason, suddenly decided it was a good time to poke around for a left-handed bat. The White Sox were involved for about a 10-day period, and here’s the blow-by-blow from MLB Trade Rumors:
- The Braves and Rays are still involved and a source tells Stark that the White Sox have interest.
- MLB.com’s Scott Merkin concurs, adding that he believes the White Sox have about $4MM to offer Damon.
- The White Sox “threw [a] bone” at Johnny Damon, but weren’t seriously involved, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). That matches up with yesterday’s reports from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times and MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
- Jon Heyman of SI.com says via Twitter that it looks like the Damon sweepstakes will come down to the White Sox and Tigers.
- The Braves have not ratcheted up their chase of the 36-year-old in the last week, leaving the White Sox as the strongest known challenger to the Tigers.
- The White Sox have made a second offer to free agent outfielder Johnny Damon, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
- Rosenthal takes back his previous tweet, and says that the White Sox did not make Damon a second offer. Their original offer still stands, though it is not believed to be as high as Detroit’s.
- Rosenthal adds that Damon and his wife “would prefer him to play in a more cosmopolitan city than Detroit,” for what it’s worth. What’s more, Damon played golf Monday with Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and broadcaster Hawk Harrelson.
- SI’s Jon Heyman tweeted this morning that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf recently got involved in the Damon talks. Gonzales notes that the White Sox-Scott Boras relationship appears to be thawing, given the Damon talks, the Andruw Jones signing, and the Sox drafting a Boras client in the 16th round of last year’s draft.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes today that “the White Sox front office is feeling like they may have ‘significantly’ closed the gap between themselves and Detroit for the free agent’s services.”
- Cowley tweets that the Sox “are going from long shots to frontrunners in the Damon sweepstakes the last few hours.”
- Cowley quotes an unnamed member of the White Sox who says “I would be surprised if [Damon] didn’t sign with us.”
- Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune hears from a team source who says he can imagine Damon signing with the White Sox. “I think we have a good shot to get him now,” the source said.
- White Sox GM Kenny Williams told Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald that he won’t discuss his club’s interest in Johnny Damon until Sunday.
- Williams said the White Sox are “very much interested in” Damon. Levine hears that the White Sox offered him $6MM. Levine’s sources tell him that the Tigers never offered a two-year deal; they have only offered a one-year $7MM contract.
- The White Sox have pulled their offer to Damon, reports Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. White Sox GM Kenny Williams said he had to withdraw it.
- Williams told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that Damon and Boras were willing to be creative (Twitter link). Ultimately, Williams says “the total dollars and cents didn’t make sense” for the White Sox.
- Let’s not rule the White Sox out completely. Williams told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that Damon has until Sunday morning to take the team’s last offer.
- The Tigers officially signed outfielder Johnny Damon to a one-year, $8MM deal today. The contract contains a no-trade clause and no deferred money.
All of that for a one-year, $8 million deal, which is the equivalent of a $9.3 million deal when adjusting for inflation. Some of you may have forgotten just how insane even minor Boras pursuits can get. Some of us were trying to finish up a book.
* * * * * * * * *
Smash-cut to nearly nine years later, where the White Sox are in on another Boras client after the new year. In one day, reporters relayed two completely different rumors concerning the market of one Bryce Harper. Making his ESPN debut after jumping from Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan wrote:
The Phillies and White Sox are the other two teams known to be willing to guarantee Harper the decade-plus-long deal he and Machado, each 26 years old, are seeking.
Hours later, here’s Bruce Levine:
The White Sox won’t offer 10-year contracts to star free agents Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, an industry source said. They plan to not offer deals longer than seven years.
It looks to me like Passan’s got a source from Boras or his party, and Levine’s got the team line. I’m guessing Levine’s version is closer to the truth, at least as the discussions have unfurled to date, because I’m assuming Boras wants a better offer from one of Harper’s truly preferred destinations.
I don’t think it’d be good business to shoot down reports that your team is really committed to improving, but if Harper hasn’t yet forced anybody beyond eight years — let’s say the White Sox are sandbagging their interest a little, so they can come off as heroic if they step up with nine or 10 — the club probably has some kind of responsibility to put a check on the public representation.
However it’s balanced, Wednesday was the most Boras day yet, and if the Damon saga is any indication, there are going to be plenty left. The financial commitment to Harper could be 40 times the Damon deal, so you have to expect it to get at least 20 times dumber.
The good news? The White Sox have nothing better to do but wait. They don’t have immediate designs on contending, a track record of success or nationwide appeal, but they do have a clean payroll and all the time in the world. Being the fallback option is seldom anybody’s primary objective, but Abraham Lincoln will tell you that being the second choice has its advantages, so the Sox may as well indulge in the few luxuries the status affords.