Johnny Damon has hit just .172 in 16 games since joining the Indians at the beginning of the month, providing little return on a one-year, $1.25 million contract with another $1.4 million in potential incentives.
Manny Acta has already removed Damon from the leadoff spot, but the manager indicated that he’s not close to benching the 38-year-old veteran:
We don’t have a timetable or anything. Damon is here to play for us up until he doesn’t want to be here. We signed Damon to be part of the Cleveland Indians. Johnny was signed to be part of this ballclub until the end.
It probably helps Damon’s cause that the Indians are in first place at 23-18 and the rest of the lineup has been decent, putting Cleveland in the middle of the AL pack for run scoring.
Obviously any time a 38-year-old struggles it’s natural to wonder if he’s finished as a productive regular, particularly in Damon’s case when he sat out all of April while trying to find a new team. One positive sign within his overall struggles is that Damon has more walks (9) than strikeouts (6) in 67 plate appearances, suggesting that he hasn’t been overmatched at the plate even if the hits haven’t come yet. Otherwise, though, it’s been pretty ugly.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.