The Tampa Bay Rays have filled their Carl Crawford outfield vacancy, as the team came to terms with veteran outfielder Johnny Damon. According to Sports Illustrated, Damon has signed a one-year deal worth $5.25 million, which also includes a $750 thousand bonus based on attendance. The deal is still pending a physical.
Damon, a 16-year veteran, has spent his entire big league career with American League teams and was most recently with the Detroit Tigers last season. Damon hit .271/.355/.401 with 8 HR and 51 RBI last season for the Tigers and his eight home runs were the fewest he had hit since 2001 with the Oakland Athletics (9).
While Damon isn't known for his defense (well, he is, but for his horrid throwing arm) it would seem likely that the team would assign him to designated hitting duties, which would be fine, but the team also announced that they agreed to terms with Manny Ramirez (our own Dan Port will cover this signing later). Damon will likely see a bulk of his time in left field with occasional at-bats from the DH spot. As far as Damon's spot in the lineup, he'll likely at-bats from the two-hole behind John Jaso and before Evan Longoria or Manny Ramirez. The Rays everyday outfield will likely consist of Damon, B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce .
The Damon signing also likely signals that top-prospect Desmond Jennings will begin the season at Triple-A with the Durham Bulls. Jennings, 24, has just 21 big league at-bats under his belt, but hit .288/.375/.415 with the Bulls over the past two seasons.
From a fantasy perspective, Damon is a late-round acquisition. While he doesn't provide a power bat, his strengths come on the basepaths, as Damon has posted five straight seasons with at least a ten percent walk percentage (BB%). He has a career .287 batting average and seems likely to hit around the .275 mark next season. Although he's stolen a total of 23 bases over the past two seasons, Rays manager Joe Maddon loves to run around the bases and steal on opposing teams, so Damon could see an increased opportunity to swipe bags this season. Damon has always had strong baserunning skills and has averaged 94 runs over the past four seasons.