Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Genesis of Johnny Damon and the Indians

The plan for the Indians outfield in 2012 was having Micheal Brantley in LF, Grady Sizemore in CF, and Shin Soo-Choo in RF. Shelly Duncan  in a reserve role including some time in LF and Aaron Cunningham who the Indians had acquired from the San Diego Padres in the offseason was going to fill the utility 5th OF role.

Unfortunately, Grady Sizemore injured his back prior to the opening of spring training which  required surgery which will keep him sidelined until at least June 3rd. Sizemore's injury moved Micheal Brantley into CF and opened up a spring training competition for the LF job. During  spring training Shelly Duncan kept hitting home runs but not much else, Fred Lewis got injured, Russ Canzler, Felix Pie, and Ryan Spillsborghs didn't seize the opportunity, and eventually the Indians decided to give Shelly Duncan his first extended chance at an everyday job.

The Indians broke camp with only 4 outfielders on their roster (Sizemore, Brantley, Choo, and Cunningham) and elected to keep 2b/3b Jose Lopez as a right handed bench bat. Near the end of spring training the Indians were rumored to have a deal with Angles OF/DH Bobby Abreu but that deal seemed to hit a snag and break down at the last moment. Many Indians fans were confused as to why the Indians would be interested in an older veteran player like Bobby Abreu? Some of the reasons were detailed here in an article titled "Thoughts on Indians Left Field Requirements, Park Factors, and Groundball Staff".

The article above notes that Progressive Field is a home run friendly park for left handed hitters (park factor of 107), the lack of ground to cover in left field at Progressive Field, and the fact that the amount of balls in play to the left fielder is somewhat suppressed by the Indians all right handed starting rotation and the amount of groundball pitchers on the staff.  The article also mentions Johnny Damon as someone who could easily fill the same role as Bobby Abreu and Dave Cameron at FanGraphs penned the similar thoughts in an article titled "The Indians: If Abreu, Why Not Damon?"

Even after the Abreu deal with the Angels fell through there were numerous reports of the Indians trying to find someone to be that outfield and their was even a report of working out Vladimir Guerrero at the teams baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. This caused some to question whether Vladimir Guerrero was the answer in left field for the Indians.

On April 17th the Indians officially announced the signing of Johnny Damon to a minor league contract which will pay him 1.2 million and he can earn another 1.4 million in incentives based on plate appearances. Finally, if Damon isn't activated by the Indians by May 1st he may elect to be a free agent. Damon is currently in extended spring training in Goodyear, Arizona.

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