Oh, you didn’t hear? It might as well be a secret since the Johnny Damon front has been pretty quiet over the past few days. In his Sunday column for ESPN.com, Buster Olney provides an excellent timeline of events during the negotiations with the Yankees, writing that “it’s laughable that the Yankees are taking flak for not working out a contract” with the 36-year-old outfielder.
The Reds appear out of the running after signing Orlando Cabrera and if Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com is correct, you’d have to think the odds of him joining the Athletics would take a hit if they sign Gabe Gross as a fourth outfielder. This leaves only a precious few with the ability to sign him. The Rays remain in the mix, but in his weekly column for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rogers handicaps the Tigers as the favorite.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.