So far the Mariners are enjoying a successful Spring Training with a record of 9-3-1 and an average of over 6 runs a game. However, this offensive burst in Cactus League play may not be sustainable during the course of the season. As a team that was dead last in every offensive category, there are some bats that are still available on the free agent market that may be worth looking into, especially for the Designated Hitter spot. Many fans know the DH spot was a revolving door last year, with a weighted average Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 0.1. The youth-oriented Mariners could benefit from a veteran presence in the locker-room that has the ability hit and play some of the corner outfield. There just happens to be a player dying to find a job.
There is hardly a reason in the world why Johnny Damon has not been signed by a big league club and the Mariners should take full advantage of this opportunity. Damon can still get on base, swipe a bag or two and can play some left field. He would instantly be the Mariners’ best hitter with an offensive WAR of 2.6 in 2011. The only Mariners close to that last year were Ackley with a WAR of 2.5 and Ryan at 1.9. But Damon’s offensive attributes are not the only reason the Mariners should bring him into the mix.
Damon is currently 277 hits shy of 3,000. He could easily eclipse within two seasons, averaging 151 hits the past three seasons. This would be a huge publicity spike for a franchise that is treated by major sports media outlets as Southeastern Alaska. There would be instant draw to Seattle next season as Damon chases 3,000 hits.
And yes, give Damon a 2-year, $8,000,000 incentive based contract. He deserves it and could be a great value for the Mariners. Sure the dividends would not start paying off until the second year of his contract, when he is pursuing 3,000 hits, but Damon has other intangibles that could benefit the young core of the Mariners. Damon has played in the two toughest sports media markets (New York and Boston) and knows how to handle the media well. When the Mariners are experiencing some growing pains this season (which they are) which veteran is going to step up? Figgins? Olivo? Ichiro? The Mariners are really missing the glue guy and Damon is that.
It is really befuddling why the Mariners are not seriously considering Damon. Although his bat is not Pujols-esque, it is still productive; much more productive than the bats we had last year. He would be a great clubhouse guy, meshing this Mariners roster together. The Mariners need to act on this quickly before another team has that position open up and Damon jumps all over it.