Pitchers and catchers are busy in MLB camps in Florida and Arizona, but a few high-impact players are still looking to sign on the dotted line. That crowd decreased by one yesterday as Johnny Damon inked a one-year, $8 million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers. The left-handed hitting veteran isn’t your prototypical lead-off hitter, but he will be the first one to the plate on Opening Day for the Tigers in 2010. His presence in the lineup, and left-field, will take the pressure off of rookies Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore at the top of the lineup and continue to set the stage for GM Dave Dombroski to throw his weight around in the 2011 off-season when $50+ million, including Damon, comes off the books.
Dombroski pulled off a masterful trade this off-season, but has only gotten credit for it recently as the emotional shock of losing CF Curtis Granderson has worn off. In return for Granderson, the Tigers netted two young highly-talented immediate-impact power-lefties in Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth – the kind of arms that are often considered pitchers-who-must-not-be-named in trade talks.
Prospect Austin Jackson will replace Granderson in CF and bring a similar defensive package, and thanks to the presence of Johnny Damon, he will not have to lead-off in his rookie season, instead probably being shuffled at #2 or #9 depending on the health and production of fellow rookie 2B Scott Sizemore, who some are predicting could be in the 15-20 HR range. Max Sherzer, who also came over from the D-Backs in the Granderson/Jackson three-team swap, will easily replace Jackson in the rotation for less money. Dombroski mentioned early on that he is going to give LHP Phil Coke a chance to make the starting rotation, words that will hopefully kick the competitive fire in slumping Tiger lefties Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis. If the Tigers get anything out of Jeremy Bonderman, who returns fully healthy in 2010, or Andres Galarraga in the 5th spot, they will have a terrific pitching staff. Closer Jose Valverde was a terrific upgrade over close-your-eyes-and-chuck-it approach of Fernando Rodney, who will set-up Brian Fuentes in LA this summer.