New York The New York Yankees grabbed center fielder Johnny Damon away from the rival Boston Red Sox, reaching a preliminary agreement Tuesday night on a $52 million, four-year contract.
Details of the deal were still being negotiated and Damon must pass a physical, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity because negotiations were not yet final.
Moving from Fenway Park to Yankee Stadium will mean a change of style and scenery for the long-haired, bearded Damon - New York owner George Steinbrenner has rules governing the length of hair and bans beards.
"Sad to say bye to some of the greatest fans in the world. Unfortunately they had to see this day, but it's time for me to move forward," Damon told WBZ television in Boston.
Damon fills a double void for the Yankees, giving them a speedy center fielder who can cover ground and a leadoff hitter to top a star-studded lineup that also includes Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi.
Bernie Williams' defense declined significantly during the past four seasons. And while Damon's arm is not much better, he does cover a lot of ground, which is important in Yankee Stadium.
Damon, who turned 32 last month, led Boston with a .316 batting average. He had 197 hits and scored 117 runs.