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What does Damon signing mean for Raburn and Guillen?

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I think it's safe to say we've covered the Damonpalooza ad nauseam. But, just in case you can't get enough of this wonderful gent (who you all are most assuredly going to cheer for endlessly on opening day, right? Right?), I bring you another post chalked full of Johnny Damon. You can thank me later.

The deal is $8 million for one year to, presumably, man left field. CHONE is projecting a .352 wOBA and a .270/.357/.432 triple slash line. Defensively, it doesn't think Damon's fallen off the cliff like the Fans Projections have. Fans have him at -7 runs defensively while CHONE puts him at +6.4. Going by CHONE, we're looking at a projection of 3.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). If you split the difference on the defensive side of things, knock off around 0.5 WAR. But, I agree more with CHONE, so I'm going to roll with the 3.2 WAR projection, but for the sake of ease, will just call it 3 WAR.

But, you can't compare Damon in a vacuum. What were the Tigers other options in left field? We'll take a look at that after the jump...

The other options for left field are Carlos Guillen and Ryan Raburn. There's also Clete Thomas but I doubt he'd really be in the running for it, so I'm excluding him for this post.

Guillen is projected by CHONE to post a .344 wOBA. Injuries and his age are held against him by CHONE, so if you'd like to bump him up a bit, then feel free. He's an above-average bat when in the lineup when healthy and his core numbers, as Dave Cameron points out, really didn't change much when he got in the lineup last year.

The question with Guillen though, is always health and defense. CHONE has him as exactly average defensively and the Fans see him at about -3 runs defensively. I think it'd possibly be a touch worse than the Fans projection, but -5 is nice and round, so we'll go with that. I calculate Guillen to be around 1.20 WAR if he is a full time DH getting 85% playing time. 85% is probably generous given his health but I don't think it's outrageous if he's not in the field.

Raburn is projected to have a .351 wOBA and be 13 runs above average with the bat over 700 plate appearances -- which is regarded as 100% playing time. Defensively he projects to be just a touch above average, but I'll just call him average. Add in positional adjustments and adjust for 85% playing time, I get a 2.4 WAR projection for Raburn if he were to be the everyday left field starter.

I've voiced around here a couple different times that I'm a believer in Raburn. If you don't think he's as good offensively as his projections suggest, you can take him down 0.5 WAR if you'd like to right around a league average regular. However, he's not the full time start in LF and Damon does look to be the better player, as judged by WAR.

But the biggest contention to the Damon signing isn't his on-field talents, it's with the money. When I first heard it was $8 million, I immediately cringed. I loved the deal at the $4-5 million range. I liked it at $6 million. I thought it was passable at $7 million. $8 million is really pushing the boundaries.

Kurt talked me off the ledge, though. Yes, given the soft market for Damon this is an overpayment. However, he projects to be, at worst, worth the exact amount we paid him -- and there's a couple million in surplus value potential if he has a better-than-projected season.

But, the $8 million spent likely wasn't going to be spent elsewhere during this off season given that pitchers and catchers have reported. So, this deal isn't infringing on other moves we would've made before opening day. The Jose Valverde contract was early enough in the off season that, at the time, it looked possible that it was going to impede upgrading more vital areas of the ball club. The only time Damon's price tag becomes an issue is acquiring a player at the trade deadline if the Tigers are contention, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it (my way of saying, "Don't be shocked if the Tigers aren't in contention").

The other issue is that Damon's signing could help save the Tigers money in the long run. If Magglio Ordonez is off to an awful start, with Damon in left field we can put Raburn in right field and keep Guillen at DH. This limits Maggs' plate appearances and games started and potentially keeps that final year option from triggering. I don't think this scenario is likely to happen, but it puts us in a better position than if we had Guillen in left and Raburn as the super sub.

On paper, the Tigers are a better team with Damon in the fold. Yes, they over paid given his market, but with the last reported White Sox offer being in the $6 million range -- and the report by USA Today's Bob Nightengale the Rays were "in it until the end" -- it isn't a grotesque overpayment. Maybe now the national media will pick up the hint that MLB.com's Jason Beck had been saying all along: the Tigers aren't in dire straits financially and this is off season is mostly made up of the Tigers trying to better the ball club, rather than shedding payroll.