The Yankees traded Randy Johnson back to the Diamondbacks. In order for that to happen, the D-Backs gave the Yankees a couple prospects and a Major League reliever, AND they signed Johnson to an extension through the 2008 season. So they will pay Johnson $26 million to play for them in 2007-08.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, because I already thought it was stupid of the Yankees to extend Johnson through 2007 when they originally traded for him two years ago, but I can’t figure out what the D-Backs are thinking. I’m sure some of it has to do with trying to get butts back in the seats, after having all-time low attendance these last two years without Johnson. But the thing that puts butts in the seats is a good team. Johnson may raise the attendance every fifth day when he pitches, but that is a) not a hugely significant increase, and b) assuming that a 43-year-old with a history of back problems who just had back surgery will be available to start every fifth day.
If Johnson starts 30 games each of the next two seasons and is as dominant as he was in his previous stint with the D-Backs, this is a great trade for them. But I am here to tell you right now that it ain’t gonna happen. Johnson will start somewhere between 40-50 games over the next two seasons (if I had to break it down, I’d say 24 in 2007 and 18 in 2008), and his ERA will be in the 3.90-4.20 range. When he’s healthy, he will be a slightly above-average pitcher, but he will be exactly as healthy as you would expect a guy in his mid-40s with back problems to be. He will be 45 when the contract ends, at which point another sucker team may come along and offer him huge money to play until he is 47. More likely, he will retire after 2008 and spend a year or two in a wheelchair.
Yeah, I can’t figure out why Keith Law likes this deal for the Diamondbacks. I guess the D-Backs are banking on the fact that Johnson will be a lot better in the easy league on a low profile team.
Being a resident of AZ, I have heard a lot of what people and local media have been saying in regards to this trade and for the most part people are against it for all the reasons Jeff listed. The ones that do like it are those holding on to the past. Johnson was lights out when he was here, but he’s not the same pitcher now. One radio caller pointed out that this guarantees that Johnson will go into the Hall of Fame as a D-Back. The radio host was quick to point out that was guaranteed anyway because it was here in AZ that Johnson won the World Series and 4 Cy Youngs. Also it was here that he pitched his perfect game. The reason he wanted out of AZ was because he wants to finish his career with 300 wins and that likely wouldn’t have happened had he stayed. Despite the ups and downs in NY, he won enough there and should be able to win 20 more over the next two years. If not, I wonder if he’ll do as Jeff says and show up somewhere else after his contract is up.