The Prodigal Returneth

Welcome back to Arizona, Randy. We know you liked it here: four Cy Youngs, a World Series ring and co-MVP, a record of 103-49, and that miniscule 2.65 ERA in almost 1,400 innings of work, with 1832 K's. Though you left in a bit of a huff, who can blame you after winning almost one-third of all our games in 2004? But this isn't those Diamondbacks any more: the only regulars surviving from that roster are Tracy and some guy called Webb, whom you might have heard mention of on the East coast. He's pretty good.*

The formal parameters of the deal have not as yet been made clear, but it appears to be as follows. The official line is as follows: we have agreed a deal with the Yankees, that sends Johnson back to Arizona in exchange for reliever Luis Vizcaino, Minor League prospects and $2m in cash. Josh Byrnes declined to say which prospects are involved in the deal, but we'll get to those very shortly. We now have a 72-hour window to discuss the contract status with the Big Unit's agents Barry Meister and Alan Nero. This serves two purposes, to get him officially to waive his no-trade clause, and to come to terms on a contract extension for 2008.

Of course, the phrase "Minor League prospects" bears a little closer examination, since the crucial part of the deal was what we'd have to give back to the Yankees. The good news is, nothing of stunning significance, or so it appears thus far. The names which are apparently being mentioned are Ross Ohlendorf, right-hand pitcher Steven Jackson (a 2.65 ERA in 24 Double-A starts, but got torched in the AFL) and Alberto Gonzalez, a shortstop better reputed for his glove-work than his bat: According to John Sickels list at Major League Ball, none of them are ranked higher than #18 as far as Arizona is concerned. Curiously, the three players were consecutive on Sickel's list, from #18-20.

AlGon was the highest-ranked shortstop in the Arizona system, but really, with Drew looking set to be there through 2011, do we need anyone else? Especially someone named Gonzalez. :-) His line in Tennessee last year was .290/.356/.392, for a .748 OPS, and had a quick cup of coffee in Tucson with the Sidewinders. Jackson was originally hoped to have a Webb-like sinker, but the reality seemed less than the advance promotion, and those who saw him during the Arizona Fall League were largely unimpressed. There, he threw 19 innings, giving up 15 earned runs on 24 hits and nine walks.

And then there's Ohlendorf, whom the Yankees are regarding as the jewel in the trade and who perhaps does have the highest potential upside. But, really, what are we talking here? Apart from the usual caveat that there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, he was only a fourth-round pick, and his 2006 year was a lot better than the previous one, so that could be an aberration. I am slightly sorry to see him go, but as terrors go, I think I can handle it, and should be able to sleep [though the heavy, ongoing doses of NyQuil will probably help there!]

All told, my first instinct is that I like this deal. It probably works out at about $24m/2 years of Johnson, and while he may not quite be the Cy Young winner he was in his first stint, he should still prove a credible threat - whenever he comes back to full fitness [I'm currently thinking probably around the end of June?] Assuming the players in question are as widely reported, we've kept hold of our best prospects, and traded a few mid-level ones for a player who could put us over the top in 2007. Delighted to see that mvn.com proved to be wildly wrong in their expectations and claims of who the Yankees would be getting in the trade. Goddamn bloggers. ;-)

I particularly liked the analysis quoted by William K in the comments, that if you add the trades we've done since Johnson left, the net result is Chris Young, Evan McLane and Juan Cruz for Ross Ohlendorf. Which is pretty cool. Anyway, that's your lot, and I have to go to bed - the NyQuil is kicking in - but questions for discussion, either here, or in the convenient diary opened by dbackfan25 over on the right. Does Arizona now have the best rotation in the NL West, in Webb, Johnson, Hernandez 2.0, Davis and A.N.Other? Who should be that A.N.Other? Where does this trade leave our bullpen?

[* = Taking a closer look at the 2004 roster reveals the wholesale turnover since that time. We used 27 position players and 25 pitchers during the season, but I think Tracy, Hammock and Snyder are the only survivors still with the organization in any form, from the former category, while among the pitchers, we have Webb, EdGon, Valverde, and now, the Big Unit. All told, that's an 87% turnover rate, in little more than two years, since the nightmare which was 2004.]

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