On Monday the Boston Red Sox claimed DH/LF Johnny Damon off of waivers from the Detroit Tigers. The Red Sox have suffered from countless injuries, and currently are without Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Cameron. Damon is yet to announce whether or not he will waive his no trade clause, but assuming he does, how much will this help the Red Sox?
Damon has put up a line of .272/.358/.410 for Detroit this season. His .139 ISO is his lowest since 2007, but is fairly consistent with his career numbers. His 5.6% HR/FB rate is 3.4% lower than his career rate, and if he goes to Boston, don’t expect that to pick up too much, if only because of Fenway’s noted ability to depress left handed hitter’s power numbers with a park factor of 83 for LHB, compared to Comerica’s 92, and New Yankee Stadium’s 121.
The real question is, how much of an upgrade is Damon over the rotating group of Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Bill Hall, and Darnell McDonald? Well, one of them is still going to play center field, and it probably won’t be Nava, who has only played left field in his 34 Major League games. It is possible they go with the 22 year old Ryan Kalish, who, while only having 72 MLB PAs, put up a .294/.382/.502 line between AA and AAA this season. The Red Sox could also consider Darnell McDonald, who has played 55 games in center for the Red Sox already, however he’s been a liability in the field, putting up a -15 UZR/150 in 2010. Bill Hall is a more stable defensive solution to the center field situation. He’s only played 7 games in center in 2010, but he’s put up 4.6 UZR/150 in 145 career games in center. Hall and McDonald have put up wOBAs of .342 and .347, so the comparison at the plate is essentially a wash. In the end, the Red Sox have to decide how ready Kalish is to hit major league pitching. If he puts up anything resembling his MiLB numbers, he’s the best option, if not, the Red Sox should run Bill Hall’s plus glove out in center.
While Damon is a nice pickup, he’s not one who’s going to have a huge impact on the
Boston’s playoff hopes. According to the Baseball Prospectus playoff odds report, the Red Sox have a 21 percent chance to make the post season. With the wild card coming out of the AL East in 99% of BP’s simulations, a Red Sox playoff appearance isn’t improbable, but it isn’t likely, and a 36 year old Johnny Damon isn’t going to change that.