Half a dozen teams contacted

Updated: July 16, 2004, 9:05 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Randy Johnson's agents have informed clubs that the Big Unit's preference is to be traded to either the Yankees or Cardinals, ESPN's Peter Gammons is reporting.

Johnson has said he wants to go to a team where he knows he can win, and since the Cardinals likely cannot afford the $24 million remaining on Johnson's contract, his preference is clearly to go to the Yankees, according to Gammons.

The East Valley Tribune in Arizona, citing "a person who speaks often with Randy Johnson," reported that the long, tall left-hander wants to go to the Yankees, and only the Yankees.

While the Yankees, who officially told Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. on Wednesday that they'd like to have him, do not have the prospects the Diamondbacks seek, one GM said on Thursday that "Randy can stick to his guns and make life difficult enough for the D'Backs that they rationalize that they're better saving the money."

Earlier, there were reports that the Diamondbacks had informed the Yankees and Red Sox, along with the two Chicago teams and the Angels, that the Big Unit is available.

The Angels, with catcher Jeff Mathis and a deep farm system, seem to be the club Arizona would like to deal with. But whether or not owner Artie Moreno wants to up the third highest payroll in baseball another $8 million, and whether or not Johnson would go there is in question. Just in case, Arizona is sending one of its top scouts to see the Angels' Double-A and Triple-A clubs in Arkansas and Salt Lake City, where they have four of the top prospects in baseball: Mathis and RHP Earvin Santana (Arkansas) and third baseman Dallas MacPherson and first baseman Casey Kotchman (Salt Lake City).

The Red Sox do not believe Johnson will accept a deal to Boston, and informed the Cubs Thursday that it would be fruitless to try to satisfy the Diamondbacks for a three-way deal that would send Nomar Garciaparra to Chicago and Johnson to Boston. The Cubs are expected to trade for Montreal's Orlando Cabrera before the deadline.

After Garagiola gauges interest around the majors, he'll call back those GMs and make trade proposals, a source familiar with the process said Thursday on the condition of anonymity.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he held a team meeting before Thursday night's game at Detroit, discussing the second half but avoiding trade talk.

"I don't really want to plant that seed," he said. "If I sense that there's a lot of smoke and steam and I sense somebody is distracted, then we'll address it."

There are still two weeks before the non-waiver trading deadline for the teams to sort it all out.

The Yankees have the best record in the majors. But with pitchers Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and Jon Lieber all hurt at some point this season and starter Jose Contreras still inconsistent, the rotation is the team's biggest question mark.

Johnson is making $16 million this season and has a $16 million contract for 2005, the last year of his deal.

Johnson was 10-7 with a 2.84 ERA and leading the majors with 154 strikeouts. He pitched a perfect game at Atlanta on May 18.

Earlier this week, the 40-year-old lefty said he would consider waiving his no-trade clause if Arizona wants to send him to a contender.

At 31-58, the Diamondbacks had the worst record in the majors at the All-Star break.

"Obviously, it would have to be a situation as such that it's going to work for me. That's the only way," Johnson said Monday.

"I'm not going to leave to go somewhere else to theoretically have a chance to win. It's going to have to be somewhere that ... teams that have a chance to win, that's the only way," he said.

Getting Johnson would push the Yankees' payroll to around $200 million. The Yankees are never shy about spending money, though their minor league system is not stocked with top talent.

As for making a trade, Torre wasn't sure what to expect.

"It's the same answer I give every year. I wouldn't be surprised if we did, and I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't," he said.

"I'm not saying that just to take the middle road. A lot of it depends on how Moose pitches Sunday, Brownie, how he's doing. That's going to play a role. If he's not healthy, maybe we shop around and look. Ability-wise, we have enough horses -- as long as they're strong and healthy," he said.