Orioles Sign Johnny Damon to Two-Year Deal

Editor's Note: The rumors turn out to be true. WTF!? The story is behind a paywall, so I have excerpted most of it below...

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When Dan Duquette took over as GM of the Baltimore Orioles in November, observers around baseball wondered just how long it would be before he turned to some of "his guys": the unorthodox players he brought to Boston ten years ago, who went on to break that team's 86-year World Series losing streak.

The answer appears to be: "not very long."

With Brian Roberts again starting the season on the disabled list, and no foolproof choice to resolve the team's leadoff hitting woes, Duquette inked free agent outfielder Johnny Damon to a two-year deal, it was announced yesterday.

Damon, a client of Scott Boras, had been unemployed for the entire offseason. The story was first tweeted by Jon Heyman.

The deal is for $10M, with another $500,000 possible via incentives, and a club option for 2014. Damon made $5.25M last season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

To make room on the roster, the Orioles designated outfielder Nolan Reimold for assignment. The inconsistent left fielder was out of options, and had batted just .087 in his leadoff appearances during spring training. One club official said the Orioles had grown weary of his "foolhardy" approach to the game.

Reunited for the first time since April 2002, Damon and Duquette were all smiles at the introductory press conference.

"It feels great," said Damon. "I'm relieved to have found a team that could use me. I'm just happy to be here—hope I can help the ballclub. I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing, things will work out." Damon will wear #22, since his preferred #18 is currently worn by pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada.

"We got the guy we wanted all along. A guy who's averaged 75 RBIs every year of his career and can score runs. Mr. Angelos fully supported this move," said Duquette. "We'd be foolish not to sign him."

"Throughout Spring Training, we were looking for someone to take over the leadoff role," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, "but each time we thought we had an answer, it turned out we had fool's gold. Johnny's a premiere leadoff hitter, and he'll bring a veteran presence to the clubhouse. Plus he was in that 'Bunch of Fools,' or whatever those guys called themselves over there in '04." (Showalter was presumably referring to the 'Bunch of Idiots' moniker coined by Damon.)

Asked where Damon would play, Showalter replied he would start in left field, and occasionally rotate into the DH spot to give relief to new Orioles Wilson Betemit and Nick Johnson. "I'm glad we got it done," he said. "Tomorrow's the first day of April, we open in five days, and we needed to stop fooling around."

Source: Chicago Sentinel

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