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The Johnson arms race

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It's looking as if the Yankees are interested mostly in Diamondback pitchers for Randy Johnson. Specific names are hard to come by, but from Sports Illustrated [hey, it does have good articles sometimes, y'know... :-)]:

The Yankees have shown interest in several young pitchers, including Micah Owings, Ross Ohlendorf, Brandon Medders, Luis Vizcaino and Dana Eveland, who was just acquired in their six-player trade with Milwaukee that also brought them Doug Davis. However, to this point Arizona, which is stocked with young talent, has balked at the combinations the Yankees have requested.

Certainly, I'd want to keep most of those pitchers: of the names mentioned, I don't know much about Ohlendorf. He went 10-8 in Tennessee, with an ERA of 3.29, and an excellent K:BB ratio of 125:29. That got Ohlendorf a late call-up to Tucson and made one start there, allowing one run over five innings, so I'm guessing he would probably be scheduled for the Sidewinders rotation this season. John Sickels rated Ohlendorf as the #20 Diamondbacks' prospect in his rankings, calling him "a sleeper who throws strikes", which made him the #7 pitcher, behind Owings, Brett Anderson, Nippert, Brooks Brown, Matt Torra and Steven Jackson.

The good thing is, I would tend to think the Yankees need to trade Johnson more than we need to have him. It's difficult to see how they can even speculate about entering the bidding for Zito or Clemens, when they already have six starters on their roster. [along with RJ, there's Mussina, Pettite, Igawa, Pavano and Wang. Hey, is it too late to ask for the last-named? :-)] Interesting quote from Randy's agent: "We haven't discussed it, to be honest. This idea that Randy doesn't want to come back, that's not exactly true. I'm not aware of anything coming from our side that would force this. Whatever comes down, comes down, but it's not because Randy has demanded it or because we're participating in the process." I believe he does have a full no-trade clause, so there definitely will have to be participation before anything happens.

Ironically, if we got Johnson, we wouldn't have to pay him $16m, even at full price, since $1.5m is apparently deferred until 2010. Heck, we can just add it to the debt, since reports say we still owe him $40m from his last stint here, part of the deferred salary lump that we're paying off. But there's an interesting point brought up by Mister T in the comments: would Johnson be happy being the #2 in Arizona, behind reigning Cy Young winner, Brandon Webb? He was the Opening Day starter last season for the Yankees (as they thrashed Barry Zito, incidentally!). Does he have the humility to watch Webb, with fifteen fewer years major-league experience, take that spot? Or will it eat away at him? He was never regarded as a great clubhouse presence to begin with, and with the young team we have here, that could be a crucial issue.

It hasn't stopped Joseph Reaves in the Republic from what can only be described as going off on one: "Unit back to Arizona? Just do it." I note that the story includes twenty-six consecutive paragraphs of two lines or less, even on my crappy 800x600 screen. It may be the worst example of baseball writing I've seen all year, both in style and (lack of) content. Mind you, Reaves' affiliations and loyalty are well-known not to be with the Diamondbacks, so in this role he may be operating as some kind of fifth-columnist. Or, perhaps more accurately, fifth-rate columnist...

Of course, the entire trade still remains in the world of speculation, not least since Yankees GM Brian Cashman has astutely brought in the other NL West teams, in an effort to increase the return he gets. The same story quoted above reckons the Padres are the most likely destination for Johnson, with Scott Linebrink the reliever coveted by New York. But it then adds, "The Dodgers' aggressive GM, Ned Colletti, already has signed Jason Schmidt for the front of his rotation and his interest may be in part to keep Johnson away from the division-rival Padres." As with Mark Mulder, the Diamondbacks do have home-town advantage, but as there, that might not be enough. I'd be as happy to see a divisional rival overpay for Johnson, as I would to see us get him at the right price. But one wonders how genuine the other teams' interest really is? Let's see what their blogs say...

Gaslamp Ball seem to be suffering from an overdose of festive spirit, and haven't mentioned the reports yet. So we turn to Ducksnorts, who point out the Padres already traded an aging leftie (Wells) away: "If they insist on sticking an ancient left-hander at the back of the rotation, why not work something out with the guy they already gave up something to get?" That's a good point, and Geoff, like me, would be happy to see a rival get screwed in the trade. Similarly, True Blue LA says, "This is almost certainly nonsense. The Dodgers already have eight starters, a full 25 man roster, and a good sized payroll. While Randy Johnson would probably improve the Dodgers in 2007, it's not worth the loss in personnel for what wouldn't be that big of a jump in performance." It sould like this is all Cashman trying to get Arizona to overpay: I trust Josh Byrnes won't bite.

In non-grumpy leftie news, Baseball Digest Daily listed their top 100 prospects over the festive season, and the Diamondbacks were very well represented, with seven players selected. Better yet were our elite prospects, as we placed three men in the top twenty: #6, Chris Young; #7, Justin Upton; and #17, Carlos Gonzalez. Miguel Montero, Alberto Callaspo, Micah Owings and Chris Carter all also made the top hundred, at #73, #89, #95 and #99 respectively.

Rob McQuown points out regarding Upton, "this is a guy who was the youngest player in his league, played a crucial defensive position, and hit 19 points better than average, got on base 28 points better, and slugged 63 points better! Only the tough park in South Bend, situated in the tough Midwest league, hide the fact that Upton had an excellent season." Hmm, I would counter that 19 BA points above average does not make someone the #7 prospect in all baseball... But he drools fulsomely over Young: "vaults him from the range of stats that Mike Cameron has put up...to that of Jim Edmonds. Playing in Arizona, expect Chris Young to put up some simply amazing numbers in his career," and adds, "Expect to hear people discussing Quentin-Young-Upton as the best outfield in the NL in 2009." It's great to hear this kind of fulsome praise from neutral observers.

On a personal note, did indeed get out of work about 90 minutes early on Xmas Day. Mind you, can't say it was put to productive use. I played Guitar Hero last night for the first time, and can entirely see why Astros' pitcher Joel Zumaya had to be barred from playing it, since it was causing him arm problems. For my first effort, I dealt credibly with Smoke on the Water, but let's just say that the subsequent attempt at Ace of Spades proved me a one-hit wonder, and would have had Motorhead's Lemmy turning in his grave. [Not that he's dead yet, as far as I know!] But addictive? Hell, yeah. I think video-games would have the potential to be an enormous waste of time, if I let them...