It's Official: Indians Sign Damon

FT. MYERS FL - FEBRUARY 22: Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day on February 22 2011 at the Charlotte Sports Complex in Port Charlotte Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)


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For now, it's a minor-league contract, but after Damon is ready, the Indians will pay him $1.25M with another possible $1.4M in performance bonuses.

Quote from Chris Antonetti, via Paul Hoynes:

"We think Johnny can come in and help our major league club," said Antonetti. "He's going to get the bulk of his at-bats in the outfield and some at DH. Most likely he'll get most of his time in the outfield in left field."

The timetable for him to be ready to join the major-league roster could be anywhere from a week (as Damon thinks) or the beginning of May (the Indians' expectations).

When Damon does get added to the roster, a couple key questions need to be answered, starting with whose roster spot does he take? At this point, barring an injury, Jose Lopez seems to be the most likely candidate. Although Damon was once a center fielder, those days are long past, meaning that if the Indians demote/DFA Aaron Cunningham, the Indians would have one center fielder on the roster, which would lead to unappealing options should Brantley need a day off. Jason Donald has spent time in the outfield this spring, but I don't think the Indians would be that comfortable with him in center field once a week. Shin-Soo Choo has played center in the past, but again, I don't think you'd want to do that to one of your best players. If Lopez was removed, Shelley Duncan could fill his role in addition to sharing left field with Damon, and with no real defensive downgrade. Well, aside from Damon's arm.

The other main question is how playing time is juggled between Damon, Duncan, Kotchman, and Hafner. Damon hasn't had much of a platoon split in recent years, so I don't think the Indians will strictly platoon Duncan and Damon. However, they could choose to play Duncan at first or DH if a left-hander is on the mound. I think there's enough at-bats so that Duncan will be in the lineup regularly, in the type of role the Indians probably envisioned for him as spring training opened.

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