Damon could still end up a Brave

Damon could still end up a Brave

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With the White Sox pulling their initial offer for Johnny Damon's services, it's seemingly time to at least wonder if the veteran outfielder could actually end up accepting the one-year offer that the Braves made more than 10 days ago.

When asked how his club was affected by Friday's announcement that the White Sox had pulled their offer off the table, Braves general manager Frank Wren said, "Nothing has changed on our end."

The Braves offered Damon a one-year contract that included deferred funds. While the present-day value of the offer has never been specified, a Major League source said last week that he believed the offer was for less than $4 million.

When the Braves gained confidence that Damon had a genuine desire to play in Atlanta this year, they opted to make this offer with the understanding that they would likely be outbid by the Tigers and possibly at least one other Major League club.

The White Sox jumped into the mix last week and, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, made a one-year offer worth as much as $6 million.

Not wanting to still be facing a distraction when his club begins Spring Training on Sunday, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams opted to remove this offer on Friday. But he told the Sun-Times that he'd be willing to talk if Damon or his agent, Scott Boras, were willing to negotiate a figure in that $6 million range before Sunday.

There are now doubts regarding earlier reports that indicated the Tigers offered Damon a two-year, $14 million contract. There's now a belief their offer was a one-year deal worth approximately $7 million.

With indications that Damon would prefer to play in Atlanta, the Braves are at least back in the mix for the 36-year-old outfielder, who hit .282 with 24 homers and an .854 OPS with the Yankees last year.

The Braves recognize that Damon could prove to be a benefit to their club and possibly serve as the prototypical leadoff hitter that they lack. But it doesn't appear that they will be willing to increase their initial offer.

With Nate McLouth having fixed his vision problems with contact lenses, the Braves believe he is capable of serving as a productive leadoff hitter. In addition, they remain confident that top prospect Jason Heyward will be ready to begin the season at the Major League level.

If Heyward were to begin the season in the Majors, Damon's presence would also eliminate the plans to essentially platoon Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera in left field.

While the Braves seem confident that Diaz and Cabrera could team to form a productive platoon, they are at least keeping the door open for Damon in the event that he determines that he's willing to take their offer.

Like Williams, Wren and Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski seem to believe that Damon will likely sign early next week, when all Major League clubs begin staging their first full-squad workouts.

"I would assume, like any player, that [Damon wants] to get into camp and get ready for the season," Dombrowski said on Friday. "So at some point there's a time frame there. But I think he knows that."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.