Sources: Tigers, Braves interested in Damon

It’s not clear how many suitors are showing interest in

Johnny Damon at the moment. But the Tigers and Braves are

definitely among the group, multiple major league sources told late Friday.

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.