Thursday, February 11, 2010

Atlanta's courtship of Johnny Damon: is there a Plan B?

With word getting around on Thursday that the Tigers would likely be willing to exceed the Braves' one-year, $4 million offer to Johnny Damon, many journalists reasserted their belief that Detroit is the favorite to land Damon. Yesterday, I calculated that the Braves could go as high as $7.7 million and still get fair value for Damon.

But what if the Tigers do outbid Atlanta? Are there any other remaining free agents left field options for the Braves? Not really. The only thing that comes close is Jermaine Dye, who is projected by CHONE to have a 1.3 WAR season in 2010. That would make him worth about $1.05 million to the Braves in added line-up value.

Dye was sub-replacement in 2009, so any investment here - no matter how small - would bear considerable risk, even if it's only $1.05 million. Garret Anderson was signed to an equally cheap contract in 2009 and was awful. The sunk cost of the contract could have been easily overcome, but Bobby Cox's insistence on having him play 133 games as a sub-replacement player could not.

Should you choose to look more closely at Dye's 2009, you might notice his dramatic platoon splits (.236/.323/.434 vs. RHP, .292/.387/.508 vs. LHP). So it would appear that he might possess some value on the short end of a left field platoon. Perhaps, but not for the Braves. Matt Diaz is a career .347/.384/.537 hitter against lefties, so having Dye steal his at bats would actually be counterproductive.

The only context, then, in which signing Dye might make sense would be if Jason Heyward was going to start the year in AAA. In that case, the Braves might be well-served by a three-way outfield platoon of Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera, and Jermaine Dye. But if you're going to get into the business of assembling platoons, you might as well look toward someone like Jonny Gomes who - despited his limitations as a player - has a much more appropriate estimation of his market value.

UPDATE: FanGraphs also chimed in on why teams are avoiding Jermaine Dye like the plague.

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