Yankees have deal to send Johnson back to Arizona

Updated: January 5, 2007, 1:03 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson is headed back to the Arizona Diamondbacks after two unfulfilling years with the New York Yankees that began with a nasty sidewalk confrontation and ended with a messy playoff loss.

 Randy Johnson
Johnson

The Yankees reached a tentative agreement with Arizona on Thursday to trade Johnson to Arizona for reliever Luis Vizcaino and three minor leaguers, a move that allows the Big Unit's agents to get him a contract extension.

Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes confirmed what he called "an agreement in principle" but did not identify the players that would go to the Yankees.

New York would receive Vizcaino and minor league right-handers Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, and shortstop Alberto Gonzalez, a baseball official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Yankees also would pay $2 million of Johnson's $16 million salary this year.

Teams are granted a 72-hour window by the commissioner's office in tentative deals, and the Diamondbacks have until 5 p.m. ET Sunday to agree to an extension. After that, the players likely will take physicals, a process that could take several more days.

Newsday reported Thursday that Johnson had agreed in principle through "back-channel conversations" to a $10 million contract extension for 2008.

"We're going to start talking tomorrow," said Alan Nero, who represents Johnson along with Barry Meister. "We have a conference call set up."

Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, never seemed to fit in during two seasons with the Yankees, starting with when he put his long right arm up to block a television camera and said "Get out of my face, that's all I ask" as he walked from his midtown Manhattan hotel to his physical.

He was jovial during spring training but often turned taciturn when games that counted began. At 6-foot-10, he stands out in any clubhouse, especially so at Yankee Stadium, where he seemed to be a loner during times reporters were allowed in.

He went 34-19 during the regular season with New York, pitching much of the time with back pain that caused him to have surgery in October. But unforgiving fans focused on his 0-1 record with a 6.92 ERA in three postseason appearances for a franchise that expects to win every World Series.

Last year, he lasted just 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs in Game 3 of New York's first-round series against Detroit. The Yankees lost 6-0, fell behind 2-1 in the best-of-five series and were eliminated the following day, sparking days of speculation that manager Joe Torre would be fired.

Johnson's return to Arizona could jumpstart a team that went 76-86, tied with Colorado for last in the NL West. The Diamondbacks drew 2.09 million fans at home, just 32,000 above the franchise low set in 2005, and Johnson's presence could spark interest.

Arizona has had an otherwise quiet offseason. The only major move was to acquire left-hander Doug Davis from Milwaukee in a six-player deal that sent catcher Johnny Estrada to the Brewers. Right-handers Greg Aquino and Claudio Vargas also went to the Brewers, while the Diamaondbacks obtained a pair of youngsters, left-hander Dana Eveland and outfielder Dave Krynzel.

Johnson pitched for the Diamondbacks from 1999-2004 and deferred parts of his salaries during those years. Now, Arizona must pay him slightly more than $44 million, including accrued interest, from 2007-12 and might want to rework those payments as part of the extension.

Johnson, who lives in the Phoenix area, went 103-49 with the Diamondbacks and helped them beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, going 3-0 against New York.

With a 17-11 record and a 5.00 ERA last season, the 43-year-old left-hander is coming off back surgery on Oct. 26. Although he has gone 34-19 during the regular season in two years with the Yankees, he is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three postseason appearances.

In another move, first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and the Yankees reached a preliminary agreement on a $1.5 million, one-year contract. Mientkiewicz, who spent 2005 with the crosstown Mets, must take a physical for the deal to be finalized.

Vizcaino, a 32-year-old right-hander, was 4-6 last season with a 3.58 ERA in 70 games. He has a 25-23 career record with a 4.24 ERA in eight seasons, playing for Oakland, Milwaukee, the Chicago White Sox and Arizona.

Ohlendorf, a 25-year-old who went to Princeton, was 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA at Double-A Tennessee last season and 0-0 with a 1.28 ERA at Tucson.

Gonzalez, a 24-year-old right-handed hitter, batted .290 in 129 games with Tennessee with six homers, 50 RBIs and 20 doubles. He also hit .200 (3-for-15) in four games with Tucson.

Jackson, 24, was 8-11 with a 2.65 ERA in 24 starts at Tennessee.

New York's projected rotation includes Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa. The Yankees also have oft-injured right-hander Carl Pavano and hope Roger Clemens can be persuaded to follow Pettitte back to New York. Clemens hasn't decided whether to pitch this year. If he does, the 44-year-old right-hander might follow his 2006 schedule and not start his major league season until mid-June.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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