Damon's Deal Opens Trade Door For Phils

The Yankees' signing of center fielder Johnny Damon could open some potential trade discussions involving the Phillies and Red Sox. A few other signings could also mean opportunities for the Phillies in terms of both shopping and acquiring players. Plus, the Blue Jays may be getting back in touch with the Phillies.

Even if you hate the Yankees, you have to admire the fact that they got Scott Boras to blink. After being adamant about getting a seven-year deal for Johnny Damon, the boys from the Bronx got the super-agent and his client down to four years. Almost half of what they wanted. Granted, they got more per year, but at least the Yankees didn't fold and make a completely ridiculous move in signing Damon to an Alex Rodriguez type contract.

Damon's signing killed most of the interest that the Yankees had in Jason Michaels. Most, but not all. The re-signing of Bernie Williams further hurt the Yankees interest in Michaels, but there may still be at least a sliver of interest. The Phillies asking price though would have to take a huge dive for the Yankees to look to make a deal for another outfielder like Michaels though and there are no signs that the Phillies would want any less than a solid pitching prospect for Michaels, so there doesn't seem to be a likely match.

In Boston, however, the Red Sox now have not one, but two gaping holes. Who plays center field and who bats leadoff? Ideally, of course, the Sox will find a player who can do both, but if they can't, they may have to piece things together. The Phillies and Red Sox have been rumored to have talked on a few occasions this off-season and it's likely that they'll talk again.

One potentially perfect solution would require some gentle persuasion and would involve the Phillies. Bobby Abreu. He's only played 19 games in center field, but he could also potentially play right field for Boston with Trot Nixon swinging back to center. The bigger part of the discussion would be Abreu's lack of interest in batting leadoff. Whether or not the Phillies, the Red Sox and possibly, Abreu's old manager Terry Francona could work some magic in getting Abreu to agree to hitting leadoff remains to be seen. It's a long shot at best, but would open up huge trade possibilities for the two teams.

Jason Michaels would also be another option for Boston although he wouldn't provide much of an option as a leadoff hitter. Michaels doesn't have the stolen base ability that Damon had, but he does have the ability to get on base. There may be worse leadoff hitters than Michaels would be in that role, but there certainly are better.

You have to wonder what the Phillies would do if the Sox called and asked the Phillies for Michaels in exchange for prospect Kelly Shoppach or Kevin Youkilis. Shoppach has just 15 major league at bats - without a hit, but with 7 strikeouts - but he is generally regarded as a decent prospect. He would give the Phillies a right-handed bat to put at first base to spell Ryan Howard on occasion and he would also serve as a third catcher and a possible replacement for Mike Lieberthal if the Phillies were to deal him or next season when the Phillies enter the post-Lieberthal era. Youkilis would be able to slide into the mix at third base and also spell Howard at first. He may be able to learn a little outfield to help there in an emergency as well. Pat Gillick would likely be more inclined to ask for Matt Clement to help shore up the Phillies starting rotation. It would be interesting to see Boston's reaction to a Clement for Michaels proposition.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still interested in adding a right-hand hitting corner outfielder who can provide some offense. Enter Pat Burrell. The Jays have some decent pitching prospects and with the signing of A.J. Burnett, perhaps they would part with one. So far, there hasn't been much discussion between the two teams since they last talked about Abreu earlier in the off-season, but that could change. The Phillies also have interest in reliever Miguel Batista who saved 31 games for Toronto last season. Batista would be a huge boost for the Phillies bullpen, but it's questionable whether the Jays would want Burrell bad enough to give him up.

Meanwhile the Phillies are still pondering which of the new free agents that they may have interest in. Division rival Washington has reportedly already made offers to Ryan Franklin, Ramon Ortiz, Josh Fogg and Dewon Brazleton. The Phillies figure to get in on the bidding for Franklin and possibly, Brazleton.

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