Yankees may deal Big Unit
By Ronald Blum
By Ronald Blum
NEW YORK — Randy Johnson could be leaving the New York Yankees after just two seasons.
The Yankees have started trade talks with several teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, although it is too early to tell whether the discussions will lead to a deal.
Talks were confirmed yesterday by a baseball official who had knowledge of them and spoke on condition of anonymity because they are in the preliminary stage. The Yankees' discussions with the Diamondbacks, Johnson's former club, were first reported by the New York Post and The Star-Ledger of New Jersey.
Alan Nero, one of Johnson's agents, said yesterday he was informed of trade talks by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
"I just had one conversation with Brian, and that's it. As far we know, there's nothing going on significant enough for us to become a part of it," Nero said. "I think Brian is just doing his job."
Johnson has a no-trade clause, meaning the 10-time All-Star must approve any deal. Nero said it was too early to say whether Arizona would be the pitcher's first choice if the Yankees do decide to trade the 43-year-old lefthander.
"We haven't discussed it, to be honest," Nero said. "This idea that Randy doesn't want to come back, that's not exactly true. I'm not aware of anything coming from our side that would force this. Whatever comes down, comes down, but it's not because Randy has demanded it or because we're participating in the process."
Cashman and Diamondbacks general partner Jeff Moorad did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
A five-time Cy Young Award winner, Johnson has been a disappointment with the Yankees despite a 34-19 regular-season record. He has a 4.37 ERA with New York — including 5.00 last season — and he is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three postseason appearances with the Yankees, struggling with his arm angle and a slider that often has lacked bite.
He appeared to be uncomfortable with New York even before he officially agreed to be dealt to the Yankees. He got into a confrontation on a Manhattan sidewalk with a television cameraman while walking to take his physical, then apologized.
While at times he has displayed a sense of humor, he has been grumpy for long stretches, especially when his back bothered him last season. He had surgery Oct. 26 to repair a herniated disc in his back — he had a similar operation in 1996 — and the Yankees said he might be behind other pitchers when spring training starts in mid-February.
New York's projected rotation also includes Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Kei Igawa — who must complete his $20 million, five-year contract by Thursday. In addition, Carl Pavano hopes to return from injuries that have sidelined him for 1 1/2 seasons, and there are several young pitchers who could earn a starting spot, a group that includes Jeff Karstens, Humberto Sanchez and possibly top prospect Philip Hughes.
The Yankees also hope Roger Clemens will decide to follow Pettitte back to New York after three seasons with their hometown Houston Astros. Even if Clemens does decide to pitch, he might repeat his decision of last season to start his season in June.