The ever-pending future of Johnny Damon
So, where does Johnny Damon stand now? The answer hasn't really gotten any clearer the last few days, but FOXSports.com was told by "multiple Major League sources" that the Tigers and Braves are "definitely" among the group of teams that are interested. The Web site wrote Saturday that the two clubs match two of Damon's criteria by holding Spring Training near his Orlando, Fla., home and playing their home games in the Eastern time zone. MLB.com's Mark Bowman, however, refutes the Braves' interest in Damon, saying "it still certainly appears that Atlanta isn't in his immediate future." FOXSports.com cautioned that the Braves have taken a more "passive approach" than the Tigers and are unlikely to offer a lucrative deal. In that case, count clubs like the Rays, Blue Jays and Angels as other possible suitors. ESPN.com also mentioned the Reds, who need a left fielder and leadoff man, as a good fit.
And then there are the Tigers.
Scott Boras reportedly wanted to get them involved, and whether they sign the 36-year-old free-agent outfielder seems to hinge on how excited owner Mike Ilitch gets. Damon fits Detroit's need for a left fielder and a presence at the top of the order, considering he batted .282 with a .365 on-base percentage and scored 107 runs for the Yankees in 2009. Boras' ties to the Tigers run deep, and the club seems more open to the idea of adding Damon than they did in mid-January. The lefty hitter was seeking at least $9 million late last month, according to FOXSports.com, but his asking price may have dropped since then.
Yankees bring Thames into outfield mix
While announcing the addition of Randy Winn with a one-year contract, the Yankees reportedly signed Marcus Thames to a Minor League deal, according to several published reports. Thames, who turns 33 on March 6, will come in competing with Winn and Brett Gardner for playing time, according to SI.com, which first reported the signing. He will get $900,000 if he makes the 25-man roster, the New York Post added. The right-handed hitter -- a 30th-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 1996 -- batted .252 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs in 87 games for the Tigers in 2009. From 2006-08, Thames averaged 100 games, 23 homers and 57 RBIs per season in Detroit. Winn's contract has a base salary of $1.1 million plus up to $900,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, according to the Associated Press.
Bedard rejoins M's on incentive-laden deal
Erik Bedard, recovering from left shoulder surgery, signed a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2011 with the Mariners on Saturday. The deal has a $1.5 million base salary and gives the left-hander a chance to make up to $6 million in incentives. Its framework is influenced by the fact Bedard has been effective when healthy -- he's a combined 39-23 with a 3.40 ERA since 2006 -- but has succumbed to injury lately. He's made a combined 30 starts the last two seasons because of left shoulder issues. Bedard, 31 on March 6, went 5-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 15 starts for the Mariners in '09 before left shoulder surgery in August. He is expected to miss the first three or four months of the 2010 season. In order to make room for him on the 40-man roster, Seattle designated right-hander Yusmeiro Petit for assignment. According to The Baltimore Sun, Bedard weighed an offer from his original team, the Orioles, before signing with the Mariners.
Dye, Indians a fit?
Jermaine Dye is another notable free agent who remains unsigned, and according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Indians are "keeping an eye" on the 36-year-old outfielder. Cleveland would like to add a veteran right-handed bat, and though Dye's skills as a right fielder have diminished, he could come on the cheap, considering he hit just .179 with seven homers and 26 RBIs after the All-Star break last season. Several baseball executives told FOXSports.com recently that they expect Dye to sign with an American League club, where his at-bats can be spread out among both corner-outfield spots, designated hitter and, possibly, first base. But the question is still which club. The two-time All-Star reportedly turned down a $3.3 million offer from the Cubs before they signed Xavier Nady in January, but other than that, interest in his services has been relatively low. Perhaps that will change once Damon finally finds a suitor. Cleveland is also looking into Jonny Gomes and Russell Branyan, the Plain Dealer added.
The market for a new Japanese LHP
Free-agent Japanese pitcher Hisanori Takahashi is garnering interest from several Major League clubs and "is expected to have a decision soon," SI.com reported on Saturday. Teams rumored by different outlets to be pursuing the left-hander are the Pirates, Dodgers, Mets, Orioles, Red Sox, Giants and Padres. Takahashi, however, has already turned down offers by the O's and Mets, according to The Baltimore Sun and Japanesebaseballplayers.com, respectively. He is said to be seeking a Major League deal and, according to NPB Tracker, prefers to play on the West Coast. Takahashi, 35 on April 2, has pitched the last 10 years for the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League, compiling a 76-66 record with a 3.70 ERA as mainly a starter. In 2009, he went 10-6 with a 2.94 ERA while striking out 126 and walking 36 in 144 innings.
O's still eyeing Ohman
In search of a reliever to compete with Alberto Castillo, Wilfredo Perez and non-roster invitee Mike Hinckley for the situational lefty in Spring Training, the Orioles "really want" to bring in Will Ohman, according to The Baltimore Sun. The O's watched Ohman throw a bullpen session in Arizona nearly two weeks ago and extended him a Minor League offer, but the 32-year-old is holding out for a guaranteed contract, the Sun originally reported in January. The newspaper wrote that Baltimore won't give him that, but it will offer a good opportunity to make the Opening Day roster if he performs well this spring. Ohman, who has held left-handers to a .204 batting average throughout his seven-year career, is coming off elbow and shoulder surgery. He posted a 5.84 ERA in 21 games for the Dodgers in '09.
Kielty the Ankiel antithesis
While Rick Ankiel made the conversion from pitcher to outfielder, a jobless Bobby Kielty is looking to make somewhat of a transition from outfielder to pitcher, MLBTradeRumors.com reported on Saturday. In an e-mail to the Web site, Kielty said his ultimate goal is to be a pinch-hitter and eat up some relief innings if necessary. The 33-year-old right-hander last appeared in the Major Leagues in '07, suiting up for the Athletics and Red Sox. Kielty, who played eight games for the Mets' Triple-A affiliate last season before being released, has never logged an inning as a pitcher in professional baseball -- Minor or Major Leagues -- but according to MLBTradeRumors.com, he previously threw bullpen sessions for the Mets and A's. The Web site added that he has a "pretty good" slider. Kielty, a switch-hitter, holds a career .254 batting average in parts of seven seasons in the big leagues.
Dodgers give Giles a shot
The Dodgers signed veteran outfielder Brian Giles, a two-time All-Star who was limited to 61 games in '09, to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training recently. With Reed Johnson signed as a fourth outfielder, Giles could compete with Jason Repko and Xavier Paul for the fifth-outfielder spot -- assuming the Dodgers carry that many -- or with Doug Mientkiewicz for the left-handed pinch-hitter role. While with the Padres last season, the 39-year-old batted .191 with two homers and 23 RBIs before right knee problems shortened his 15th season. An All-Star for the Pirates in '00 and '01, Giles hit .309 while averaging 37 homers and 109 RBIs per season from 1999-2002. His power numbers began to gradually decline thereafter.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.