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Is this a nuclear winter for the unemployed DH club?

Guerrero was released by the Blue Jays on

Guerrero was released by the Blue Jays on June 12. Credit: Getty

Brian Cashman noted the other day that all of the unemployed DHs out there - most notably Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui - were waiting on the Yankees to decide what they were doing there.

Sure, most players desire to play for the Yankees - they offer a great chance to qualify for the postseason and good off-the-field earning opportuniites - but that situation reflects how stark it is out there as much as it does the strength of the Yankees brand.

Now that the Yankees have corraled both Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez, they're out of the DH game. And it really makes you wonder who of the remaining free agents out there will find a way to stay in the game.

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci addresses this issue and looks at 10 position players, including catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek, shortstops Edgar Renteria and Miguel Tejada and outfielders J.D. Drew. I think those guys are all probably done, as is first baseman Derrek Lee, who could've stuck around but has outpriced himself.

I could see Magglio Ordonez, who played more outfield than DH last year but who clearly should be a DH at this point, turning up somewhere eventually, if he can prove his broken right ankle has healed sufficiently.

Ordonez and the other DHs - Damon, Guerrero and Matsui  - interest me the most because of the way the position has evolved. The only "superstar" DH is Boston's David Ortiz, and the only other highly compensated DH is the White Sox's Adam Dunn, who said for many years that he wanted no part of being a DH, then couldn't resist the White Sox's money in December 2010 and proceeded to put up a breathtakingly awful 2011 season.

Guerrero and Matsui are in deep trouble. They're coming off terrible 2011 campaigns for bad teams, and they've largely lost their athleticism. Damon, who put up a decent '11 season with the higher-profile Rays and can still steal a base, certainly deserves to have a job. It just won't be the sort of job he had in mind.

Damon had been regarding the Yankees and Orioles as his top two viable options, but the Yankees are out now, and Baltimore - whose new GM Dan Duquette signed Damon to a four-year deal with Boston back in December 2001 - signed Wilson Betemit to a two-year contract. Betemit is a switch-hitter who hits dramatically better left-handed, not good for the lefty Damon.

Betemit does bring a different skill set defensively, as an infielder, and the Orioles' infield (notably second baseman Brian Roberts, recovering from a concussion, and third baseman Mark Reynolds, a righty-hitting defensive liability) makes you think there could be room for both Betemit and Damon. Sure, Damon would prefer to be on a contender, but the Orioles at least train in Florida, where Damon lives (the Orlando area) and play in the Eastern time zone.

Part-time play in Baltimore might be as good as it gets for Damon, and he figures to do better than his fellow unemployed DHs.

--Here's my column on the Yankees' future closer situation, if Mariano Rivera retires after this season.

--I'll check in later today.


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