Damon, Yankees still a match

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As we covered yesterday, there are more outfielders available than jobs open at the moment. The odds of anyone stepping up and offering Johnny Damon the two-year, $20 million+ deal he expected at the beginning of the offseason fall somewhere in between slim and none. Cincinnati is the one team that has an obvious need for him in left field and at the top of the order, but there’s nothing to suggest that the Reds will bid. The Braves and Giants have alternatives and are short of cash. If there’s going to be a race for Damon’s services at any point over the next month, it seems likely to come down to the Yankees and Tigers.
The Tigers, though, have plenty of options. Carlos Guillen and Ryan Raburn are both available to play left field, so while Detroit wants a bat, a pure DH might work out just fine. Jim Thome could put about as many runs on the board as Damon and would come quite a bit cheaper.
On the other hand, the Yankees are pretty much down to one option if they want to further improve their team before Opening Day. They don’t need Damon — they’d surely score tons of runs without him — but he was a key piece in the 2009 World Series victory and it’s hard to believe that the team doesn’t have $6 million-$7 million laying around to throw at him. Damon is surely worth that much more than a possible Brett Gardner-Jamie Hoffman platoon, even if he would be a downgrade defensively.
It probably won’t happen this week or even before the end of the month, but Damon back to the Bronx is still the most likely scenario out there. Nothing else is even close.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.