But of course the biggest baseball move of the New Year would come to my attention right after posting an entire free agent roundup. Oh well, I suppose because it is big enough news I'll leave this as a separate post.
Anyway, numerous outlets, including the Arizona Republic, are reporting that the Yankees have agreed to a deal, tentatively, to send Johnson back to Arizona for three prospects and Diamondbacks RP Luis Vizcaino. The prospects include pitchers Steven Jackson and Ross Ohlendorf, and SS Alberto Gonzalez, although I have heard differing reports on the prospects to be included in the deal, including Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings in lieu of Ohlendorf, so don't quote me on that. The kicker that had been holding up the matter for days, Johnson's salary, was settled, with New York agreeing to pay $1.5 to $2 million of his $16 million salary.
Apparently Johnson has also agreed in principle with Arizona on a one year contract extension through the 2008 season which was a sticking point in his willingness to come back. Terms, of course, were not disclosed. But even with all of the unknowns surrounding this trade, a few things are evident that do not work in the favor of New York's rivals:
1. New York will be getting rid of a $16 million salary, and will only be on the hook for 1/8 of it.
2. Randy Johnson is not the pitcher he was the last time he was with the Diamondbacks. His walk rate last year was at its highest since 2000, his strikeout rate at its lowest since 1989, 1989!, and his ERA at 5.00 was the highest of his career. Sure, the move to the NL may help that, but considering Bank One Ballpark is a hitter's haven, some of the positive effects from the league change may be cancelled out.
3. New York appears to be getting a solid, if not spectacular, package of players that includes a proven bullpen arm and several decent prospects.
Now, this post will be updated as further information comes in on exactly what the trade really is, but we know enough now to safely say that the Yankees have come out ahead. I ask you, where is the justice in the world when New York continues to unload over the hill, overpaid veterans, be left off the hook for their contracts, and get prospects in return! Good grief Charlie Brown.
Oh, and uh by the way, we do still occasionally write about the Devil Rays here so please stay with us for the duration...
Johnson trade seems set [Arizona Republic]
Update [2007-1-4 18:51 by Patrick L. Kennedy]: The Arizona Diamondbacks have issued a statement saying that a deal has been agreed to in principle, although the 2008 extension for Johnson is not done:
Update [2007-1-5 7:30 by Patrick L. Kennedy]: The New York Times is reporting that, as originally reported, the final trade package that New York will be getting in return for Johnson will be P Ross Ohlendorf, SS Alberto Gonzalez, P Steven Jackson, and major leaguer P Luis Vizcaino.
I ask again how this is fair! They get a serviceable relief pitcher in Vizcaino who has put up decent numbers the last three years, to go along with a very high strikeout rate last year, and three prospects! Steven Jackson, not only a great running back (no relation, BTW, I was joking), put up great numbers for the AA Tennessee last year, and while he was 24, I don't like seeing a guy with good peripherals and a 2.64 ERA in Double A with a division rival, no matter how old the prospect may be. Gonzalez isn't really that great, he will be 24 in April and has underwhelming minor league numbers, but he isn't awful and may be of use at some point, while Ohldendorf, also a little old, put up good numbers at Tennessee last year with better peripherals.
Individually, these aren't great prospects, but they are a decent haul, especially when you are unloading a large, cumbersome salary from a guy that has underperformed. It is extremely frustrating for me to watch New York just unload these large contracts of underperforming veterans, pay little of it, and get prospects for their efforts! Even assuming Arizona acquired Johnson for economic gain, will all the ticket/merchandising sales really make up for this trade? Because you know his production sure won't.