Jays interested in Damon, Delgado
GM has contacted outfielder's agent; Gaston wants slugger
TORONTO -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos admitted that the club has had internal discussions about pursuing free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon and manager Cito Gaston spent time lobbying for the team to bring free-agent slugger Carlos Delgado back to Toronto.
After a fan took to the mic and asked Anthopoulos if he'd considered targeting Damon, the Blue Jays GM indicated that the club contacted the outfielder's agent, Scott Boras, earlier this week. Anthopoulos described the conversation merely as "checking in" and later told reporters that he was not sure a follow-up call was in the plans.
"It's very hard to say right now," Anthopoulos said.
The 36-year-old Damon was not offered arbitration by the Yankees earlier this offseason, meaning he would not cost his new team a selection in the next First-Year Player Draft. Toronto's left-field job is currently up for grabs and the club also has a need for a new leadoff man -- two roles Damon could fill.
It became clear this week that Damon will not be returning to the Yankees after the club signed outfielder Randy Winn on Wednesday. Damon's asking price is believed to be down to around $7 million for a one-year contract -- after Boras originally tried to push for a four-year deal -- and the veteran reportedly has suitors in the Rays and A's.
If Damon's price were to come down even further, the Blue Jays would likely have more interest. For now, Anthopoulos said the talks were simply in the information-gathering stage.
"When you get late in January and you're still talking about some players that are still available, I guess it's more of a routine call to check in and see where the market stands for the player -- what the parameters of a contract may or may not be," Anthopoulos said.
Not speaking about Damon specifically, Anthopoulos noted that he is currently exploring the remaining crop of free agents to see if there are short-term additions that could also help his long-term plan.
"You're always trying to gather assets," Anthopoulos said. "If there's a free agent that might have a chance to make this club competitive, but also be someone that we could look at with respect to a trade, to help bring us an asset back, we'll look at that, too. Thirdly, if there's a free agent that may net us a Draft pick at the end of the year or two years, that's something that we would evaluate as well."
Gaston seems to think Delgado is a better fit for the Blue Jays.
"I've got to believe that Damon wants to go to a team that's ready to win," Gaston said. "Delgado, I'm not sure. If there's some way to bring Carlos back here, I'd love to see him back here, because he can do a lot of things as far as helping the young kids about knowing about hitting."
Last week, Anthopoulos shot down an Internet rumor claiming that the Blue Jays had signed the 37-year-old Delgado, who is currently playing winter ball in Puerto Rico. Anthopoulos confirmed that Toronto has scouted Delgado this offseason, but maintained that the veteran first baseman is not currently a fit for the club.
Given the fact that Delgado underwent surgery on his right hip last season, limiting him to just 26 games with the Mets, the left-handed-hitting veteran would fit with the Jays as a designated hitter. That is a role that Anthopoulos said he prefers to hand to Adam Lind, who would need to shift to left field with Delgado in the lineup.
Delgado could play some first base, but the Jays have first baseman Lyle Overbay under contract for the 2010 season and top prospect Brett Wallace close behind on the depth chart.
"When you have a player of that magnitude and the success that [Delago] has had," Anthopoulos said, "you're always going to talk about it and see, 'Is there a scenario? Is there a potential fit?' ... As we sit here today, we've got Lyle Overbay at first base and our priority would be to have Adam Lind as more of a DH.
"That's why a guy like Damon has come up, because he could fill the left field spot. Again, you could go in a different direction."
Delgado owns the Jays club records for home runs, RBIs and runs scored, along with many other offensive benchmarks, and is currently just 27 homers shy of reaching 500 for his career. Considering Toronto is a team in transition, chasing that milestone could drive up fan interest.
"We're always continuing to examine and look at things," Anthopoulos said. "What we're trying to do is always try to build as competitive a team as we can, but one that will also not hinder or block or impede upon a young player that we think is going to be a part of the core."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.