By Jason Wojciechowski on December 22, 2005 at 1:13 PM
Johnny Damon got big money from the Yankees to be their new centerfielder, signing a four-year, $52M deal. A friend mentioned this last night when I came into the bar where we were celebrating1. My immediate reaction was, "Bah, watch him put up a .330 on-base percentage last year."
To his credit as a friend, he didn't embarass me by mentioning that Damon hasn't put up an adjusted OBP that low since 1996, when he was a 22-year old second-year player with the Royals. Oops.
Damon's last three adjusted OBP's have been .350, .382, and .381. His power numbers have bounced around a bit: ISO's of .135, .181, and .135 the last three years. You really can't know what you're going to get out of him power-wise, but from an on-base perspective, he doesn't seem to be quite at that "fall off a cliff" age yet (he'll be 32 this year, and 35 at the end of the contract), so it looks like the Yankees will have that second on-base threat at the top of the order that they just couldn't find last year.
What about defense? From some of the commentary I've read around the internet, there doesn't appear to be a lot of regard for Damon's glove. It's widely acknowledged that his arm sucks (he might have the most awkward throwing motion in the game today), but BP's Rate stat marks him as an above-average center-fielder from 2000-04. He dropped to below-average last year, which isn't a very good sign of things to come, considering his age.
Damon is, in short, a very good player: it's not like having him on your team is something to shake your head about. The problem for the Yankees is that he'll be eating up $13M per year. That's really a lot of money for a 5-6 win player. There is, however, something to be said for the fact that it's not just the Yankees getting Damon, but also the Red Sox not having him, considering they are direct competitors for the division title.
1:We were celebrating having just completed our last exam for the semester, not Johnny Damon's signing.