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Tigers, White Sox frontrunners to sign Damon


TAMPA, Fla. -- Free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon shot down rumors that his wife Michelle so much prefers Chicago to Detroit that it could sway where he winds up playing.

Responding to the suggestion that Michelle might try to convince him to go to Chicago rather than Detroit, Damon said via text message, "But it's up to me. She's going wherever I go.''

The Tigers and White Sox appear to be the favorites to sign the free agent outfielder, with the Braves also believed to be in the mix.

While Atlanta may be the optimal spot in terms of geography since the Braves train near the Damon's Orlando, Fla., home and Atlanta is within driving distance of Orlando, the Tigers are being considered the frontrunner by competing executives because of their ability to pay and the well-known interest of owner Mike Ilitch and manager Jim Leyland in Damon.

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Detroit is said to have presented a couple contractual options to Damon, and while the exact offers aren't known, the belief is they'd pay him in the range of $7 million annually. The Yankees had offered Damon $6 million a few weeks ago in a deal that was contingent on an approval from the honeymooning managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.

The White Sox and Braves also have made offers, with both their proposals said to be for one year.

The White Sox have made a push, and longtime White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf recently became involved in the discussions. White Sox GM Ken Williams always has been an admirer of Damon's. However, Detroit is viewed as needing Damon more.

Ilitch has been involved for several weeks, and stepped up his pursuit when Leyland gave his endorsement for the move. Some in the Tigers' front office aren't believed to be as enthused as Leyland and Ilitch, though the owner obviously has the final call.