Lakeland, Fla. — Dave Dombrowski pulled the veil off the Tigers’ negotiations with Johnny Damon Thursday when he revealed the Tigers had made an offer, and when he spoke specifically of what Damon would bring to the team’s lineup.
“First of all, he’s a good player, who would help us from an offensive standpoint,” said Dombrowski, the Tigers’ president and general manager. “He’s another left-hand bat, and he’s been a winner.
“He’s been a good player.”
Dombrowski half-smiled when he said of his admission that the Tigers had made Damon an offer: “I don’t think that’s anything monumental.”
It has been known for several weeks that the Tigers were talking with Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, who initiated conversations with the Tigers and with owner Mike Ilitch, who clearly expanded the Tigers’ 2010 payroll to allow for a Damon offer.
Damon, 36, would allow the Tigers to secure a full-time left fielder and likely leadoff batter for manager Jim Leyland’s lineup. Damon has a career .288 batting average and a .355 on-base average. While playing for the world champion New York Yankees last year, he hit .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs.
Dombrowski would not say how long of a contract package the Tigers might have offered, nor, in keeping with his policy, would he disclose any figures. But he acknowledged that a soft off-season market, with fewer teams able to bid for free agents, had opened the door for the Tigers to talk with Damon, a possibility that was beyond remote even a month ago.
“One of the things he being out there this time of year (allowed), is that we made some adjustments,” Dombrowski said. “And Mike Ilitch was involved there.
“I’m surprised,” Dombrowski said. “One of the differences that has changed, is that by the Christmas holidays most player personnel decisions were done.
“Now, because of the market, it goes longer.”
Dombrowski said he had a time frame in mind for completing a possible deal with Damon, but he would not offer details.
The admission that Detroit had made an offer, and Dombrowski’s effusive tributes to Damon, would suggest the Tigers and Boras are closing in on a deal.
But no formal announcement would likely be made for at least a couple of days. The Tigers steadfastly insist on an acquired player passing a physical before any information is released.
“We’re not at that juncture,” Dombrowski said, making it plain he and the Tigers won’t be surprised to reach that point in the next few days.