Waiting for the Big Unit's decision

Randy Johnson remains the big prize as the clock ticks toward Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Originally Published: July 30, 2004
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

The clock on the wall ticks toward another trading deadline. So here's a look at big names who could be traded before the little hand hits 4 p.m. Saturday:

Randy Johnson
The Unit has sung, "New York, New York," more than Sinatra in the past couple of weeks. But it's gotten him nowhere. So, with all hope of a Canyon of Heroes ride gone (at least for this fall), the only question remaining is whether Johnson will work on his rendition of "I Love L.A."

Randy Johnson
ReutersIt seems Randy Johnson has two choices: Stay with the Diamondbacks or agree to go to the Dodgers.

The Dodgers told one club late Friday that they weren't optimistic. Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo said he expected Johnson to stay in the desert. But other members of the Arizona brain trust held out hope. And it's always possible that another messy come-from-ahead loss Friday, assisted by another evening of one-run support, just might push him over the edge.

"I know he wants a sure thing," said one NL executive Friday night. "And the Yankees are probably the only sure thing. But after you get past them, the Dodgers are just about as sure a thing to get to the playoffs as anybody. They've got a solid lead in a mediocre division. And with the moves they've made, they'll be tough to stop."

You don't need to be a CIA operative to know that the Dodgers didn't trade away Guillermo Mota and Paul Lo Duca just to get Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi. They did it to have the pieces to trade for Johnson and Steve Finley.

If Johnson says yes, Penny and one of two hot pitching prospects -- Chad Billingsley or Chuck Tiffany -- would go to Arizona. But he has to say yes. And there were so many people betting on no Friday night, even the Dodgers weren't optimistic.

So it wouldn't shock anyone at this point if all those cell-phone minutes the Diamondbacks have used resulted in the most spectacular non-trade of the year.

Steve Finley
Even if Johnson stays, it appears Finley is going -- and almost certainly to the Dodgers.

His first choice is San Diego, and always has been. But there isn't much chance of that now. The Padres almost had a four-team deal arranged with the Red Sox and Orioles to get enough prospects for Finley. That appeared to fall apart Friday.

That left the Dodgers in prime position to move Jayson Werth, Bill Murphy (just obtained from Florida) and either Billingsley or Tiffany to Arizona for Finley.

There are still questions about where Finley would play in the Dodgers' outfield because Milton Bradley occupies center field and Finley has said he wouldn't approve a deal to any team that wouldn't play him in center. Nevertheless, Arizona seemed determined to deal Finley before the deadline, and the Dodgers look like the only conceivable destination.

From all indications, the teams were just waiting for Johnson's final decision before finishing the details on who would go where.

Larry Walker
Money is an object on Walker, since somebody is going to have to pay him another 17 million bucks between now and October, 2005. That somebody won't be the Marlins. But they were still heavily interested Friday night -- as long as Colorado is willing to foot most of the bill.

Larry Walker
Right fielder
Colorado Rockies
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
G R HR RBI OBP AVG
32 21 6 18 .475 .326

Since the Rockies' major aim in moving Walker would be to save money, that doesn't make Florida their dream-date trading partner. But the only other team still interested is the Braves -- and Time Warner isn't a fan of accumulating $17-million I.O.U.'s, either.

So Colorado was still mulling how much of that $17 million it was interested in digesting. And the more the Rockies eat, the better players Florida and Atlanta are each willing to give up.

But clubs that have been in contact with the Rockies said they're "not close" to anything. So it's very possible they'll do nothing, whoosh Walker through waivers in August and then try again.

Orlando Cabrera
Nothing seemed like more of a lock than Cabrera winding up with the Cubs this week. But at last check, the Expos were still believed to be asking for one of the Cubs' two hottest prospects, outfielder Felix Pie and pitcher Angel Guzman. So they've been stuck in the same game of chicken for days.

The Expos have been telling people they have several teams interested. But the Cubs are the only contender known to be actively hunting for a shortstop. So since the Expos have no shot to keep Cabrera after he becomes a free agent, logic says they almost have to lower the price and come back to the Cubs before the deadline. But who ever claimed this was a time of the year when logic applies?

Other names

  • Ugueth Urbina: The Giants have scouted him all week and still have some interest, especially after dealing Felix Rodriguez to the Phillies. But only if the Tigers lower the price. And Detroit is telling teams it would need to be "overwhelmed" to deal him.

  • Derek Lowe: The Red Sox talked to the Marlins, Cubs and Padres about him. But they would need to get a starting pitcher back to move him -- and probably won't.

  • Placido Polanco: The Phillies were able to get two veteran setup men (Todd Jones and Felix Rodriguez) without trading him. But they have Chase Utley ready to move in at second base. So they're still shopping Polanco for a starter or center fielder.

    Mike Maroth
    Maroth

  • Mike Maroth: The Twins could have interest after losing Kris Benson to the Mets. The Rangers also are in the market for pitchers they can keep beyond this year. The Marlins still prowling for a fifth starter. But the price is probably too high.

  • Danny Bautista: With the Giants, Red Sox, Devil Rays and Indians all interested, Bautista seemed certain to go somewhere. Then he pulled a hamstring Friday night, which could blow all of those scenarios to smithereens.

  • Kenny Lofton: The Yankees talked to A's and Phillies about him. But Oakland couldn't move Ricardo Rincon because of bullpen injuries. And the Phillies eventually dealt Ricky Ledee to San Francisco. So amazingly, it would be an upset if the Yankees did anything before the deadline. And who'd have thunk that?

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Click here to send Jayson a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

    Jayson Stark | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com