CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians may have found a boost for their stagnant offense.
The team has reached agreement on a $1.25 million, one-year contract with free agent outfielder Johnny Damon, a person familiar with the deal said Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Indians had not yet announced the agreement.
Damon is 277 hits from 3,000 and was looking to catch on with a team to prolong his career.
Damon needs hits to reach the milestone. The Indians simply need hits.
Agent Scott Boras has worked out a deal with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who has been looking for a player to help a Cleveland team off to a 1-4 start and batting just .176 — worst in the majors. Damon can play both left and center field and will give manager Manny Acta another option in his lineup and outfield until Grady Sizemore returns from the disabled list.
Sizemore, who underwent minor back surgery last month, is not eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until June 3. Damon could provide a stopgap, or if he produces, the Indians may want to keep him for the entire season.
The 38-year-old Damon, who confirmed the deal was near completion earlier in a text message to the AP, can make another $1.4 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances..
Now that the agreement is in place, Damon, who can play left field or center, must pass a physical. And although he’s in excellent shape, Damon will likely need some time to get ready to play after not going to training camp. He hasn’t faced major league pitching since last season.
Damon played with Tampa Bay — his sixth AL team — in 2011. He batted .261 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 150 games, 135 as the club’s designated hitter. The Indians are Damon’s fourth team in four years.
The Indians need someone to ignite their lineup.
Cleveland went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position during a 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. The Indians set a season-high for runs and hits but didn’t get any in the clutch.
Afterward, Acta said he wasn’t concerned about the slow start.
“Five games is not going to make me panic about my bullpen, my offense, defense or anything like that,” Acta said. “We have to give it a little more time.”
The Indians traveled to Kansas City on Thursday night. They begin a three-game series against the Royals on Friday.
Antonetti has been looking for offensive help this spring. He recently had talks with the Los Angeles Angels about a trade for Bobby Abreu but a deal never materialized.
A career .286 hitter, Damon has also played for Kansas City, Oakland, Boston, the New York Yankees and Detroit. One of baseball’s good guys, Damon’s presence alone in Cleveland’s clubhouse will benefit the young Indians, who can learn from his work ethic seek advice as they did last season when slugger Jim Thome returned to the Indians.
In addition to his base salary, Damon would get $100,000 each for 100 plate appearances, 200 plate appearances and each additional 25 up until 500.