Sources: Tigers, Braves interested in Damon
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Both clubs hold spring training near Damon’s Orlando home and play their home games in the Eastern time zone — satisfying two criteria that Damon is said to be considering.
Thus far, the Braves have taken a more passive approach than the Tigers. They would be happy to sign Damon if he “falls into their lap,” one source said Friday, but are unlikely to offer him a lucrative deal.
In that sense, Atlanta is one of many clubs that could sign Damon if his price drops far enough. A number of teams — the Rays, Blue Jays or Angels, to name a few — would benefit from Damon’s presence. The issue is whether their respective owners are willing to authorize the additional expense at this late hour of the baseball offseason.
Late last month, one major league executive said agent Scott Boras was seeking at least $9 million for Damon.
Detroit’s pursuit hinges on the willingness of team owner Mike Ilitch to expand the budget for a star player — something he did previously with Boras clients Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez.
At a Thursday news conference to announce Justin Verlander’s new $80 million contract with the team, Tigers club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was asked about the perception that the team was slashing payroll with the trades of Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson.
“I guarantee you, if Mike Ilitch owns the team, you’re going to try to win,” Dombrowski said. “There might be some adjustments you need to make. But he is going to try to win at this point. It starts with your owner, and he wants to win.”
Dombrowski declined to answer a specific question about Damon but did say that the Tigers’ 2010 payroll would be “pretty similar” to what it was last year. That could be an important piece of information, considering that the Detroit payroll stood at around $130 million as of last Opening Day.
With every arbitration case settled, the Tigers’ payroll is on course to be a little over $120 million once the regular season begins. According to those estimates, Detroit could offer Damon a one-year deal worth around $6 million and keep the payroll below where it stood at this time last year.