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Potential Damon reunion on back burner

A's potential Damon reunion on back burner

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OAKLAND -- Several Wednesday morning reports indicated free agent Johnny Damon is keeping an open dialogue with the A's -- a subject on which Billy Beane danced around very carefully just a day before.

The A's general manager, who has a well-known policy of not discussing free agents, paused several times Tuesday as reporters curiously waited to hear any word on a possible Damon reunion following the club's signing of pitcher Ben Sheets to a one-year, $10 million deal.

When all was said and done, Beane insisted that the team's priority now centers on infield depth. Beane didn't, however, rule out adding an outfielder such as Damon.

"As far as the areas we want to address," Beane said, "it's definitely the infield utility spot, so that's going to be a matter of focus going forward.

"As far as anything beyond that, we'll take a breath, sit down and go from there. I don't think we're going to add people just to add people."

Based on recent club comments, that's essentially what the A's would appear to be doing if they land Damon, who played with Oakland in 2001.

Last week at an A's media event and again Tuesday, manager Bob Geren insisted he may have one of the best defensive outfields in the league with Rajai Davis manning left, Coco Crisp in center and Ryan Sweeney in right with hot-shot prospect Michael Taylor eagerly waiting in the wings.

Needless to say, it would be hard to see the 36-year-old Damon's declining arm fitting into that picture. In fact, a Sports Illustrated poll of 380 big leaguers published last year resulted in 54 percent of respondents naming Damon as owner of the "worst arm" of any outfielder.

Still, the A's strong desire to acquire undervalued talent -- in this case, seen in Damon's ability to hit for average and compile an impressive on-base-percentage -- could result in another Oakland offseason signing.

"If there's a special circumstance, we'll have a discussion on it," Beane said about adding players. "But I don't necessarily see too many guys out there who would fit that bill."

In the early goings of the offseason, Damon -- aided by powerhouse agent Scott Boras -- was looking for a deal similar to the $13 million salary he earned with New York in 2009 before dropping that request down to two years and $20 million.

The Yankees have since countered at two years and $14 million -- an offer Damon declined -- and are now believed to have $2-3 million in their budget.

"I'm not having any discussions on him," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told MLB.com on Tuesday. "His abilities exceed the money that I have."

Meanwhile, Beane and company are facing restrictions with their own payroll. So is there even any room for salary flexibility with a player like Damon?

"It's hard to say," Beane said. "That's one area myself, [president] Mike [Crowley] and [owner] Lew [Wolff] will have to sit down and talk about."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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