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But Wait! There's More...

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The Randy Johnson affair still rumbles on, so I'm holding over the third part of the baseball round table until next week. By then, hopefully, it'll all be resolved - one way or another - and I'd hate for the wise words of Piecoro and Magruder to be trampled in the mad frenzy of Unitomania. So, going through the Johnson updates since last time, in no particular order. There's a long article in the NY Times, which - surprisingly for the New York media - talks about the trade from the Arizona perspective. The whole piece is definitely worth a read, but here's the Reader's Digest Condensed version:

The team's current owners... are loath to increase the $65 million payroll budgeted for next year, even if that means passing up the opportunity to sign Johnson as the second starter behind the National League Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb. The Diamondbacks have about $10 million to spend to stay within their budget, which is not enough to cover Johnson's $16 million guaranteed salary for next season. But the team appears willing to extend a two-year contract to Johnson, providing some flexibility on salary over that period.

Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Diamondbacks' five-man ownership group, said that he was intrigued by the possibility of Johnson's return, but that team must meet its financial targets. "As long as the general manager's commitments stay within the budget, we will support him," Kendrick said, referring to Josh Byrnes. "Our friend Jerry Colangelo left us with a legacy," Kendrick said, referring to the debt... Colangelo declined to comment Wednesday on the Diamondbacks' current financial situation. He said his decision in 1999 to defer salaries to field a competitive team "was the right thing to do for the Diamondbacks then, and I would be willing to do it again."...

Speaking from a fan's perspective and not as an owner, Kendrick said, "I think it would be really neat to have him as part of our club." At the same time, Kendrick said he had no illusions that Diamondback fans would storm the gates to see Johnson in a Diamondbacks uniform striving to win another 20 games to reach 300 for his career. "He certainly was not a fan favorite that Luis Gonzalez has been," Kendrick said. Even during Johnson's peak years in Arizona, his appearances on the mound did little to boost attendance. In 2002, Johnson went 24-5 with a 2.32 earned run average. Attendance in games he started averaged about 740 fans more than the season average, 39,507.

"He certainly was not a fan favorite that Luis Gonzalez has been"? Ouch. Kendrick's chronic case of foot-in-mouth has another outbreak. Way to make the Big Unit want to come back to Arizona, Ken. It may be the truth - just as it was the truth that there had been "whispers" about Gonzo - but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to say it. Further up the piece, it appears there's about a $6m gulf that needs to be covered in our budget to get Johnson. That could be covered either a) by the Yankees or b) by trading Eric Byrnes. Actually, I wouldn't mind too much if the answer were c) both of the above, and I'll get to a possible scenario for that below.

The Tribune says that the Yankees want Medders and a couple of our starting prospects from a list that includes EdGon, EnGon, Nippert, Owings and Ohlendorf. We've "balked" - presumably when we stopped laughing - with Vizcaino being offered for Medders. It appears we're keen to keep BMedd: the report mentions Atlanta wanted him in the Estrada deal, when we gave them Villarreal instead. It lists the Giants and Padres as the other suitors - no mention of the Dodgers any more, I note - but word is that Zito has spurned the Rangers, and is currently leaning toward the Giants.

Over on DBBP, Levski - whom I've learned the hard way not to argue with - said, "If I had to predict an outcome, I'd say it would end up being Vizcaino, one of the group mentioned in the article...(and from this group, I'd say the most likely candidates are Enrique and Ross [Ohlendorf]) and another pitcher from the low minors, not in the top 20, i.e., no Bret Andersons or Matt Torras, etc. I also assume the Yankees would be eating a significant portion ($6-8m) of RJ's salary." I'd perhaps also add this being contingent on us being able to sign Johnson to an extension covering 2008 as well. Trading Vizcaino certainly makes sense, since he'll be a free agent after 2007.

The NY Daily News says the Yankees want to wrap up the trade quickly, so they can get on with trying to pursue Zito and/or Clemens. This all started "when GM Brian Cashman made a condolence call to Johnson after the recent death of the pitcher's brother and Johnson told the GM it was important to him to be near his family." Which seems either very generous or somewhat cold-hearted, I'm not sure which... It also raises the spectre of a three-way deal involving the Padres: "One prominent agent said he had heard talk of the three teams being involved in a possible deal in which the Yankees would get Linebrink."

I was trying to work out the possible permutations there, but my head started hurting. However, I know the Padres badly need a bat for left-field, so how about Eric Byrnes? He's got power! He steals bases! He's Californian! Seems like a match made in heaven to me. So, maybe something along the lines of, Byrnes to San Diego, Linebrink to the Yankees, Johnson and $8m cash to the D'backs, EnGon + a B-prospect pitcher to the Yankees? I'd hit that, f'shizzle.

However, the amount of actual, solid "news" today seems very limited, with even Ed Price in the NJ Star-Ledger, who broke the original story, now quoting Magruder's Tribune piece. I still believe the Diamondbacks are the only team with a realistic chance (if we can keep Kendrick away from anyone with a notebook or microphone) and interest, and that the Yankees are much keener to trade him than we are to have him. It's like a game of poker where we know we have the better hand: the longer we can draw this thing out, the more desperate the Yankees will become and the better results we can get. Hold firm, Josh: if you wait long enough, the three pitchers the Yankees get will be Grimsley, Jarvis and Ortiz. ;-)

Finally, check out Mister T's diary about the state of the fan nation. I pity the fool who doesn't - and please leave their thoughts on the general tone and feeling of AZ's fanbase, as we head towards the end of 2006. He also asks you to grade Josh Byrnes' performaince, and as background reading, there's a little bit in the Republic on Byrnes' first year. Best quote there: "Change was necessary to give an opportunity for our young players. Clearly, there was a lot of nostalgia from the former era of the D-Backs and while transition is never easy, I think we were able to accomplish a lot." Here's to more in 2007.