BOSTON -- Before fully throwing himself into the middle of the free agent market, center fielder Johnny Damon is eager to see what kind of offer the Red Sox will present to him.
Damon would very much like to remain in Boston for the remainder of his career, and if that's going to happen, the dynamic leadoff man says time is of the essence.
"You know, what would help me out is if they come to me sooner than later," Damon said by phone Tuesday night. "Once I know what other teams are offering ... I still haven't had an offer from Boston. I know that there were reports that they offered me a contract, but that's not true. I've been hoping for a contract since last offseason and back in Spring Training, but hopefully they can beat everyone to the punch. I know they have a lot going on. And I know, pretty soon, I have to start listening to other teams."
One thing that has muddled the process a bit is that the Red Sox don't have a general manager. Theo Epstein, who stepped down from that post on Oct. 31, had a good working relationship with Scott Boras, who represents Damon.
However, the Red Sox did make it clear to Boras at last week's general managers meetings that keeping Damon is a priority.
Much like Jason Varitek last winter, Damon would prefer to stay in Boston than exercise his free agent rights and move on to a new team.
"I'm leaving it up to Scott. I know the Red Sox have shown that they are interested and that's the good news," said the 32-year-old Damon. "Hopefully we can sign a contract and I can finish out my career with the Red Sox and hopefully approach 3,000 hits one of these days with the Red Sox, that's our reasoning for wanting a lot of years [in the contract]. I feel like with my body type, we can do it. I'll play center field for the next four or five years and then move to left field and finish off my career."
Few players in recent years have embraced all that comes with playing in Boston more than Damon.
All the while, Damon has produced. In 2005, he hit .316, scored 117 runs, belted 197 hits, and added 35 doubles, six triples, 10 homers and 75 RBIs. Damon has scored 100-plus runs the past eight seasons and is a .290 career hitter in 1,555 games.
The Red Sox must offer Damon arbitration by Dec. 7, otherwise they would lose the right to negotiate with him until May 1. Assuming Damon is offered arbitration, the Red Sox would then have until Jan. 8 to work out a deal with the left-handed hitter.
Though some Boras clients have gone up against the clock with that deadline -- including Carlos Beltran last year -- Damon did not sound interested in doing so.
"We hope to get an offer soon," said Damon. "Hopefully it's a great one that will keep me in Boston for many years."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.