Braves assistant general manager Bruce Manno would not rule out the team pursuing free agent outfielder Johnny Damon saying Tuesday, “Never say never.”
However, Manno, who was in Macon, Georgia for the Braves caravan, insisted that, “Right now we like our club.”
”Obviously, things change daily,” Manno explained. “We recognize and realize what kind of player Johnny Damon is and has been. We also like our club. We like our team as it is today.”
Damon has been linked to the Braves after telling the Boston Globe several weeks ago he’d like to play in Atlanta. The Braves acquired Melky Cabrera in December from the Yankees to play all outfield positions, and expect rookie Jason Heyward to compete for the right field job in spring training.
But Manno did seem to leave the door slightly ajar for another addition.
”As we go forward, it just depends on how things fall for us,” he explained. “Things change daily for us. Evaluations change. Dollars change. Availability changes. But as of today, we like the club we have on the field. We feel that all the pieces we have we can fit in, and they all play significant roles for us.”
Part of the equation in considering Damon is Heyward, who is still just 20 years old, but is considered the top prospect in the game. If Heyward does not make the club, the Braves would need another outfielder. But if Heyward is on the 25-man roster leaving Florida, Cabrera would probably start the year in left playing with Matt Diaz.
”We wanted to go to spring training and give Jason Heyward a chance to make our team,” Manno continued. “But Jason Heyward does not have to make our team. That’s another position of strength for us, because when you don’t have to put a player on a team and you can allow him to make the team it makes a huge difference. We’re in a position to do that with the way we’ve covered our outfield with Cabrera, and Diaz now and with McLouth.
“So we like our club today, and as we go forward we’ll just have to see how things play out.”
Some fans have lobbied for another addition with concerns about the potential of Cabrera making an impact in the Atlanta lineup. But Manno reiterated the club’s belief of Cabrera’s value to the team.
“Right now we like our club, and we like the components of this club because it gives us a lot of flexibility, especially when you get into the outfield and you’ve got someone like Melky who can play left, center, or right. You’re not just restricted to a spot. It helps Bobby when he wants to give guys a day off and if he wants to defense for someone. So I think right now the way our club is put together we really have a lot of flexibility. We like the direction we’re going in.”
But when asked one more time about Damon, Manno again said, “Never say never.”
Damon’s situation is eerily similar to Garret Anderson, who didn’t sign with the Braves until late February last year and had to take a $9.5 million dollar pay cut. If Damon remains on the market, will the Braves once again be tempted?
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.