UPDATE, 12:15 PM: Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com was told by a source that the Rays are indeed talking to Damon and that an agreement could “certainly happen,” but also that nothing is close.
2:29 AM: Johnny Damon has found a new home for the upcoming season. Well, almost.
According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the 37-year-old free agent is “closing in on a deal” with the Rays.
Damon also drew legitimate interest from the Yankees, Dodgers, Blue Jays and Angels this offseason, but he probably recognized that he has a better shot at playing time down in Tampa Bay, where the Rays have been ravaged offensively by free agency and have some question marks in different areas heading into spring training this year.
The 15-year major league veteran can’t be trusted to play the outfield anymore — at least, not on a regular basis — but he should find enough at-bats at designated hitter to remain satisfied and to produce at a somewhat high level. At the worst, he’ll make for a useful pinch-hitter.
Damon finished with a .271/.355/.401 batting line, eight home runs and 51 RBI in 539 at-bats last season for the Tigers. He can probably match a few of those stats if given ample looks with the Rays.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.
The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.
Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.
Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.
The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.
Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.
Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.