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Damon Wants Money and Years...Ick

This piece is not new, but I figure since Johnny Damon is once again making noise, I can run it; don't worry, I'll have new content all week. Think of this as supplemental reading:

According to Friendly Fenway's blog, Johnny Damon wants cash, and lots of it over an extended period of time. How does 6 years, $66 million sound to you guys for a centerfielder who is already overpaid at $8 million a year and has a skill set that should start declining once the ink dries on the new deal? The Sox have a rule about no contracts past 4 years, and they certainly won't give Damon 6 if they wouldn't even give Pedro 4. This is the part of Brian's article that I really want to focus on, but make sure you check out the rest of it:

In what could be a bit of bad news Johnny Damon thinks awfully high of himself. Damon is the best of a group of Red Sox players who are eligible for free agency at the end of this year. There has been no talk between Damon and the club about an extension, something that doesn't surprise or upset Damon. He says that he would sign a four year deal right now, but after the season is done the 31 year old will likely be asking for six years. He even threw in a barb about how the Yankees will be looking for a new center fielder in 2006. Damon compares himself to Ichiro Suzaki and J.D. Drew. He'll likely be looking for the type of deal that one of those two players might receive. Drew, as you may know, signed a 5 year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers this off-season. Johnny Damon has become the identity of the Red Sox. He's coming off one of the best years of his career and is quickly becoming one of the highest profile players in the majors, but if the guy thinks he should get a 6 year $66 million deal, he's nuts. I'd like for the Red Sox to bring him back, but even the $32 million over four years that he's getting now is a bit much, especially for a guy who is on the wrong side of 30."

What's that Red Sox nation? Hanley Ramirez, centerfielder? Let's play a game called project their performance through Ramirez's service clock time and Damon's hypothetical 6 year contract, and then compare value, using the contract figures Damon actually wants. I'm going to use my best guess here, so don't criticize me (too much). Also, lets pretend Hanley Ramirez is on the club starting as of 2006's Opening Day, starting his service clock.

Damon: .297/.373/.460, above average defense in center.
Ramirez: .270/.330/.400, haven't seen him play in center yet. (Major League Equivalent)

Obviously Damon wins in 2005, being a veteran major leaguer, while Hanley has to go to Double A now.

Damon: .290/.365/.440
Ramirez: .282/.340/.420
I think their performance, while still giving the edge to Damon, would be slightly closer.

Damon: .283/.360/.435 Defensive performance becomes average due to aging
Ramirez: .290/.352/.440
Ramirez would be starting his second season in the majors, while Damon would be getting older. The performance is still close, although overall I think Damon could still be better, but Ramirez's upside would be huge.

Damon: .272/.352/.420
Ramirez: .300/.360/.460
I'd expect by Ramirez's third year in the majors for him to surpass Damon not only on a value level, but also on a skill level. I'd expect some more decline out of Damon's defense.

Damon: .270/.349/.422
Ramirez: .304/.362/.461

Damon: .269/.347/.410
Ramirez: .300+.360+.460+
I don't want to get too out of control with Ramirez's numbers, so I'm just going to say he could build off his previous years numbers, using them as a performance base.

Damon: Roughly .270/.340/.410, roughly major league average player, defense in center way down from age
Ramirez: .300+.360+.460+

Damon: League Average
Ramirez: Starting his peak years?

Granted, the Sox may lock Ramirez up prior to the last two seasons or so in order to keep his price down, avoid arbitration, or lock him up before he can really hit his peak around age 27. But let's look at the performance: Damon would have been better in (starting with 06') in 2, maybe 3 of the seasons. Ramirez is the much better player in the second half of the contracts though, and has better value all the way around. Damon would be making $11 million per season for that performance, even the league average ones. Ramirez would make the league minimum, then maybe double that after a year or so, few hundred thousand more along the way, never making over a million until either arbitration or the Sox lock him up on a long term "Wow that is a lot of money for a 24-25 year old" Nomar type value contract. Even if Ramirez isn't able to sustain the numbers I've generated for him, or Damon is able to keep his skill set intact longer, the fact is he is overpaid now at $8 million (with the exception of his 2004 campaign) and a raise to $11 million when he will definitely be in decline is outrageous, especially with such a great value per dollar player waiting in the wings. If it will help the women out, we'll have Hanley grow long locks of flowing hair to ease the pain. Get this boy to a salon, immediately!

Damon could surprise all of us as a speed/power combination and continue to produce, but for the risk of $66 million, I just do not think it is worth the effort, especially with a viable candidate sitting in Double-A for the small price of $316,000. Damon looks to me like he could become Marquis Grissom, who has his own value, and a late career power spike has helped, but $11 million is not what he deserves.