Tigers not expressing interest in Damon

Tigers not expressing interest in Damon

DETROIT -- Now that the Tigers are on the verge of adding a closer, they've essentially filled out their needs on their pitching staff. Whether they've basically filled out their roster heading into Spring Training remains to be seen.

News of the Tigers' agreement to terms with Jose Valverde had barely settled in when the buzz turned toward what the Tigers might do next, especially for an offense that struggled on and off for much of 2009 and lost the top two hitters in its batting order.

Enter Johnny Damon, the former Yankees leadoff and No. 2 hitter, whose free agency has carried past the holidays and into the final weeks of the offseason.

SI.com's Jon Heyman suggested via Twitter that the Tigers could be "in play" for Damon, then said on MLB Network that the two sides are talking.

That led to a response from Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, who said through a club spokesperson that the team has not expressed interest in Damon.

Exit Damon? For now, that appears to be the case. While it's believed there has been limited contact between Damon's agent, Scott Boras, and the Tigers, nothing has apparently developed.

Depending on what happens with the market, that could be the case for any outfielder. A Twitter report from FOXSports.com cited a source suggesting the Tigers aren't planning to sign another outfielder.

Dombrowski, for his part, has downplayed chances of adding a bat. He told MLB.com last week that anybody the Tigers added would have to be able to play a position, that they're not looking to add a designated hitter. Further, he said, they would only add someone "if it's the right situation. But it would have to be the right guy."

Take age and money out of consideration and go on hitting credentials, and there's statistically a complement. As Heyman pointed out, Damon has hit up a storm at Comerica Park, batting .363 for his career with a .550 slugging percentage and a .961 OPS.

Keep in mind, a lot of those hits came in the first half of his career, including the first several years of his Major League career with the division-rival Royals against a bad Tigers pitching staff. But the last three years, when he had only one series a season here, he still hit, going 13-for-40 (.325) with seven runs scored, two homers and five RBIs.

Damon batted second almost exclusively last year after spending most of his career in the leadoff spot, and the shift translated well to him.

The home run numbers are relative because of the lefty power-friendly new Yankee Stadium -- 17 of his 24 homers came at home -- but his 36 doubles were evenly split between home and road. He hit better away from home (.284) than he did in the Bronx (.279), and his average on balls put in play was 50 points higher on the road than at home (.330-.280). He isn't the same burner he once was on the bases, but he's smart -- 12-for-12 on steal attempts, +18 in Bill James' baserunning analysis. He has drawn at least 60 walks in 11 of the last 12 years, including 71 walks last season while batting in a stacked lineup.

Even if the Tigers do end up adding a hitter, it won't impact the Tigers in center, where Austin Jackson enters Spring Training as the top candidate to succeed Curtis Granderson. As the roster shapes up now, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez are expected to handle a good share of the duties in the corners, with Ryan Raburn also sharing time in left and Clete Thomas mixing in all around. Slugging prospect Casper Wells could crash the roster, as could the athletic Wilkin Ramirez.

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