Source says Damon has pact with Tigers

Source says Damon has pact with Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The free-agent flirtation between Johnny Damon and the Detroit Tigers is finally nearing an end.

An offseason that began with Damon negotiating to remain in pinstripes will instead close with Damon donning the Old English D.

And the empty locker next to manager Jim Leyland's office in the Tigers' Spring Training clubhouse is about to get filled, thanks to a one-year contract to bring Damon to Detroit.

A source familiar with negotiations confirmed to MLB.com the agreement on the reported $8 million deal, though the Tigers organization has not confirmed that a pact has been completed.

The contract is pending a physical. But considering all the twists and turns of this courtship, not to mention Damon's offseason market, a physical Sunday or Monday should be the easiest step. Damon is known for keeping himself in excellent physical shape.

Damon's agent, Scott Boras, did not return a voicemail seeking comment Saturday. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Friday that the Tigers wouldn't have anything to say until and unless Damon passed a physical.

One by one, though, the pieces were falling into place for an agreement to be reached this weekend. White Sox general manager Ken Williams, whose team showed late interest in Damon, told reporters Friday that he was pulling their offer, reportedly because they couldn't match Damon's demands and couldn't top the Tigers. Braves general manager Frank Wren told MLB.com Friday night that nothing had changed with his club on Damon, an indication they were no closer to a deal than they were last week.

That left the Tigers. Dombrowski confirmed his club had a contract offer out to Damon, an unusual move for a GM who usually keeps his dealings close to the vest. He also indicated he had an idea what the timetable would be for an end to what has been a five-week saga for Damon and Detroit.

The 36-year-old Damon spent the past four years with the Yankees, where he won his second World Series title in six years last season. Damon's numbers batting second with the World Series champions last year included a .282 average, 107 runs, 36 doubles, 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. His .854 OPS was his highest since 2004 in Boston, where he won his first World Series crown.

Seventeen of his homers in 2009 came in the new Yankee Stadium, which became known as friendly to left-handed hitters.

The assumption when the offseason began was that Damon would return to the Yankees, but that course took a detour in December. Reports suggested Boras was seeking a three year-offer at $13 million per season, his annual salary in his previous contract, while the Yankees reportedly offered a two-year, $20 million deal.

Whether Damon had such an offer from New York has been a long-running discussion, but regardless, New York read the demands and moved on. The Yankees traded for another left-handed bat in the outfield, acquiring Curtis Granderson from Detroit in a December deal.

The Yankees added Nick Johnson days later with a one-year, $5.75 million deal, seemingly sealing Damon's departure and leaving Damon looking for a team as the holidays came and went.

Boras publicly suggested in mid-January that his client and the Tigers would be a good fit. It was part of Boras' effort to get the Tigers interested, despite what had been less than a spending spree from them this winter. But it was also meant to get some sort of interest going for Damon in what was shaping up as a quiet market.

Though Detroit added free-agent closer Jose Valverde on a two-year, $14 million contract a month ago and signed young ace Justin Verlander to a five-year, $80 million extension last month, the club had still managed to reduce its payroll from last season after trading Granderson and Edwin Jackson and watching free agents Placido Polanco, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney sign elsewhere.

Boras' recruitment effort soon worked, and also piqued the interest of the Braves and White Sox. However, it did not start any sort of bidding battle. No team was willing to offer a multi-year deal, despite protracted negotiations, or an option on a second year. Eventually, Damon took the highest one-year offer.

Once the contract is finalized after a physical, Damon is expected to join the Tigers for the start of full-squad workouts here next week at Joker Marchant Stadium, less than an hour's drive from his home in Orlando.

It isn't immediately clear whether Damon would bat leadoff, his spot for most of his career, or hit second, as he did last year with the Yankees. The Tigers have openings in both spots. The one near-certainty is that he would spend the bulk of his time in left field alongside rookie center fielder Austin Jackson.

The Tigers would then have to sort out the situation for fellow left fielders Carlos Guillen and Ryan Raburn. Guillen could end up becoming Detroit's primary designated hitter, though the Tigers have made public their desire to avoid having a full-time DH and rotate players in and out of the role instead.

Guillen's desire to play one position full-time became well-known last October with critical remarks to MLB.com, followed by a response from Leyland that Guillen would be Detroit's regular left fielder. That obviously came before the Tigers' offseason moves, now about to be capped with Damon's arrival.

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