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Posted: Saturday January 23, 2010 3:20PM; Updated: Monday January 25, 2010 5:33PM

Damon running out of time to return to Yankees

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Johnny Damon must decide if he'll return to New York for less money

Damon, 37, last month asked the Yankees for $20 million on a two-year deal

The Yankees are believed to be offering no more than $5 million per season

By Jon Heyman,

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Johnny Damon hit a career-high 24 home runs in 2009 and scored 100 runs for the 10th time in his career.
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Johnny Damon and the Yankees spoke again within the past few days, and Damon now has been given the weekend to decide whether he wants to come back on a bargain deal.

The chances he will accept a low-base contract for a few million dollars (probably no more than $5 million guaranteed) from the Yankees still appear slim, so Damon's tenure with the team could officially end early next week.

The Yankees plan to sign an outfielder from the remaining list of free agents that includes Reed Johnson, Randy Winn, Xavier Nady, Jim Edmonds and Jermaine Dye by mid-week if Damon doesn't call them in the next couple days, say people familiar with the situation. The Yankees and Damon spoke by phone late this week and the team is still interested in bringing him back, but only at the right price.

The Yankees are telling free agents they have about $2 million left in their budget. While they may be able to find a few more dollars for Damon, any offer they make wouldn't be close to what he's been seeking, so the chances for a deal back in New York still appear pretty remote.

Damon, 37, last month asked the Yankees for $20 million on a two-year deal after hit a career-high 24 home runs, scored 100 runs for the 10th time in his career and helped the Yankees win in their 27th World Series title, but the Yankees were in the process of signing Nick Johnson at that time and said no. They later traded outfielder Melky Cabrera, which opened up an outfield spot, but since that deal brought back Javier Vazquez, who makes $11 million, more payroll issues came into play.

Several of the remaining outfielders might do a deal for $2 million, but not Damon. The Braves, Tigers and Giants have been mentioned as possible suitors for Damon, but his outside market has mostly been a mystery to this point.



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