Nothing of real significance has happened since my last report, in the universe orbiting around Randy Johnson. I can't really do much better in summarising the current situation than Jack Magruder, writing in the Tribune: "While the D-Backs and New York Yankees seem near agreement on the players the Yankees would get for Johnson, questions remain. How much of Johnson's $16 million 2007 salary will the New York Yankees pick up? What sort of two-year package is palatable to Johnson (the D-Backs have said they would like him in 2008, too), and will Johnson agree to restructure some of the $40 million due him in deferred compensation?"
With regard to the players, this seems to be settling down towards Brandon Medders, and I suspect (or, at least, hope), Ross Ohlendorf. The Trib's report pointedly omits to mention Dustin Nippert (too old at 26?), though he's still named as a 'player of interest' in the Star-Ledger report. The best line in that one is: "A Yankees official...said yesterday there was "nothing to report." That was an indication that negotiations were ongoing." Must be some new definition of "ongoing" that I wasn't previously aware of. :-)
Micah Owings is still listed as a candidate though he seems, in my opinion, the least likely one - at least, if we've any sense. Be nice if we could leverage his unquestionably fluky 10-0 record for the Sidewinders and promote him as the second coming of Cy Young. But if that was of any real significance, we'd have resigned Mike Bacsik, Randy Choate and Mike Koplove - a combined 22-0 for Tucson - and traded them for Francisco Liriano. However, reports say that Owings made big strides forward in the second-half of the season, showing markedly-increased velocity, which gives me an increased opinion of his value.
Another name was thrown in the mix over at Scout.com, where James Renwick "has learned that third player could be first baseman/outfield/DH Chris Carter." Carter is certainly a name that has been mentioned in trade discussions before, usually because he has nowhere to play in Arizona: his natural position is DH, because his defense is generally regarded as abysmal. The next alternative is 1B, and we have Conor Jackson occupying that spot for the foreseeable future, so trading Carter seems almost certain at some point. Whether it'll be as part of the Johnson deal, however, remains to be seen.
Apart from that nugget, Renwick's view of the trade in general is about as cautious as everyone else's, and he joins the Greek chorus demanding Owings not be part of the deal. I think it's safe to say that if Micah gets traded, a lot of people will be revising down the grades given to Josh Byrnes for his first year in charge. It would certainly go against the "building for the future" mantra which we've been getting used to over the past season, like a new pair of shoes. Swapping Owings for Johnson, on the other hand, smacks disturbingly of a "win now" mentality not normally seen in a team that finished tied for the cellar in their division last year. Sure, getting Johnson would arguably give us the best rotation in the NL West for 2007. But at what cost?
Speaking of the future, Steve Gilbert looks forward to the new season, with the full bloom of Drew, Quentin, Young and Montero to come. There's a telling quote from Bob Melvin: "If we were going to compete in 2007 and beyond with these guys, then they needed to be in the big leagues at some point during 2006. They have been, and they've gotten some of the firsts out of the way, so next year they'll just come and prepare for a 162-game season. It's their time." Sadly, Scott Hairston's name is notable by its absence, so I'm forced to the conclusion, for the moment, that we'll be seeing Eric Byrnes in left-field. It's kinda weird: despite some qualms, I enjoyed him in CF last year and there's no doubt he played very well for Arizona. Amazing how a change of position can turn a player from a plus to a minus.
Back in the Johnsonverse, the formal 72-hour window for negotiations with Randy is not yet believed to be open, but he has now returned from his festive vacation in Hawaii, presumably to his home in Paradise Valley, so I imagine that will ramp negotiations up a notch. I would like to remind Josh Byrnes that this is not a deal which "must" be made: Johnson and the Yankees both have much more interest in getting it done than Arizona has. Sure, the death of Johnson's brother has thrown an unexpected opportunity into our laps, but if we are unable to get the trade done on our terms, just walk away. We tried. We made a genuine, good-faith effort, and it didn't work out. No shame in that.
I've adopted a fairly Zen-like approach to the whole thing now. No point in worrying about it - at least, until the full details become apparent, which will no doubt happen in the fullness of time. I'm feeling pretty much speculated-out, having gone over in my mind, virtually every possibility and combination exhaustively over the past ten days or so. Of course, I would not put it past Josh Byrnes to surprise me, by trading Tony Clark, Eric Byrnes and D.Baxter to the Yankees for Johnson and a Big Unit of cash. [Now I've mentioned this, it'll probably appear on mvn.com by the end of the day! :-)] But even that coup of a deal might perhaps take some time to sink in...