Agent says Johnson is waiting for team's move
FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. -- Randy Johnson is waiting for the Arizona Diamondbacks to come to him with specific trade possibilities, with his only firm stipulation being that the new team be a contender, one of his agents said on Friday.
Johnson returned this week from a tour of Japan by major league players for his annual Randy Johnson Invitational golf tournament to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Arizona. But Johnson wouldn't talk about any baseball issues, referring all questions to agent Alan Nero, who also was at the tournament.
"Most of Randy's desire to leave is not because he doesn't want to be a Diamondback," Nero said. "It's because at this stage of his career he's got some milestones that he'd like to achieve and he's a competitor. It's hard to work as hard as you work at age 40 [actually 41] and come to the yard and not feel like you have the very best possibility of competing."
Johnson will earn $16 million next season, the final year of his contract with Arizona, and the Diamondbacks are listening to offers. The New York Yankees head the list of teams with interest, but the Anaheim Angels and Chicago White Sox also could be possibilities. Johnson has the right to veto any trade.
"The bottom line is he is a Diamondback, he's under contract," the agent said. "If what's best for the Diamondbacks is they decide he won't be traded, he's a very honorable guy. This is home. He will live up to his contract and at the end of the year he will be a free agent."
Johnson won Cy Young Awards in his first four seasons with Arizona and was second to Roger Clemens in Cy Young voting this year, even though Johnson was on a club that lost 111 games, tied for 10th-most in baseball history.
In many aspects, it was the Big Unit's most impressive season.
Coming off knee surgery, Johnson was 16-14, but the team scored three or fewer runs for him in all but one of those losses. He was 13-2 when the Diamondbacks scored more than two runs. Johnson was second in the majors with a 2.60 ERA and led the majors in strikeouts at 290. Along the way, he pitched a perfect game, passed 4,000 strikeouts and passed Steve Carlton to become the most prolific left-handed strikeout pitcher in baseball history. He ranks No. 3 on the strikeout list behind Nolan Ryan and Clemens.
Johnson had his best seasons with Arizona and lives in Paradise Valley, a 20-minute drive to Bank One Ballpark, but he wants to end his career with a top team.
General manager Joe Garagiola Jr., who did not return telephone messages on Friday, held a telephone conference call with Johnson's agents on Wednesday to talk about the situation.
A trade seems to make sense for a team in transition. The Diamondbacks could rid themselves of a huge contract and get some young talent in return. The situation is far from adversarial, Nero said.
"No one's a culprit. No one's trying to do anything to hurt anyone," Nero said. "It's not Randy turning his back on the team. It's not the team turning its back on him. It's determining what's best for everybody and trying to make it a win-win for everybody. That's what it's about and I trust Joe is going to make every attempt to do that."
Johnson would prefer any trade be completed before the start of next season, rather than have him endure the constant speculation that dogged him throughout the 2003 season. But even that is not a steadfast demand, Nero said.
"There's no real hurry," the agent said. "Everybody likes to know where they're going and we all want closure. But there's no present deadline that's been imposed on anyone. The only real deadline there is the July trade deadline."
Still, Nero said, Johnson doesn't want another season of constant trade speculation. The most logical time for a deal, he said, would be the winter meetings in December.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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