Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cy-yonara


The Yankees are currently fielding offers from the Diamondbacks and the Padres for the services of Randy Johnson. It appears that even as the Yankees head into the season with an aging/untested/injury prone starting rotation, they are willing to listen to offers for the pitcher who has won the most games for them over the past two years.

Randy is coming off a year when his ERA reached 5, but he still managed to win 17 games due to the highest run support in the game. Randy actually won more games than any pitcher in the national league last year and only two pitchers in the AL had more wins. His secondary numbers (Whip and Strikeouts) were still very respectable and he did show the ability to dominate at times. Randy said that he seldom pitched without back pain last year and his up and down performance was probably a reflection of that. This is the second major back surgery that Johnson has had. He recovered enough from his first surgery to win four Cy Young awards, but he was a decade younger then. Will his 40+ year old body bounce back from this latest surgery? That is the $20 million question.

The Yankees may be planning on bringing Roger Clemens into the rotation, and might be looking to free up some payroll. Clemens wouldn't be available until June however, which would still leave a hole in the Yankees rotation for two months and wouldn't help them get any younger, which is one for their goals. They may also be ready to step into the Barry Zito shootout. Barry has made it clear that he would rather pitch in New York or LA. The Mets are currently major players in the bidding and the Yankees could become a player if they free up the Big Unit's salary. Outside of those two pitchers, there isn't a lot of quality left to add to the rotation. There are a few non-tendered pitchers, who are basically rejects of their former clubs, who might get an invitation to camp (Zambrano, Pinero, Duckworth), but they certainly couldn't be relied on to post anywhere near the 17 wins that Johnson did in '05 and '06.

One of Brian Cashman's stated goals is to restock the farm system and trading Randy Johnson could be a tool to help get that done. Just as in the Sheffield deal, the Yankees could get some young pitching prospects in return for Johnson. The problem with prospects is that they are just that, prospects. There is no guarantee that they will be effective in the majors or that they will even get there. The Yankees may trade away one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all time for nothing. The Blue Jays traded Roger Clemens to the Yankees for prospects who never made an impact on the major league level and that is just one example of a trade gone wrong.

The great unknown in all of this is how Randy Johnson feels about this. I have never heard him come right out and say that he was unhappy in New York. I have never read that he wanted to move back to Arizona, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been making his wishes known behind the scenes. Randy has never been exactly friendly with the press and I doubt that he would call up one of the reporters to discuss that kind of thing now. Perhaps the glare of the New York spotlight is too much for him or perhaps he would just like to be closer to his home, or perhaps he hates the cold weather in the spring. I don't know, but it seems to me that the Yankees certainly would not be shopping his name around without his approval. And I'm absolutely sure that they would not have been so public about the negotiations. Randy is a prickly sort of person and I'm sure that he would be greatly insulted if the Yankees were shopping him without his permission. He does have a no-trade clause in his contract, and the fact that the Yankees are only talking to teams in the NL west shows me that this is being done with Randy's approval.

It remains to be seen whether Randy gets traded, but at least it gives the reporters around here something interesting to speculate about. A goodbye to Randy will probably mean that the Yankees will throw a sick amount of money at Roger Clemens. Roger played for a pro rated $20 million dollars last year. This year he may not have to pro-rate that amount. I know I said earlier that he would probably go back to Houston and I still think that they are the favorites to land him, but everybody has their price. Even the only man alive with more Cy Young awards than Randy Johnson.

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