Word coming out of New York today is that the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees are negotiating a potential trade that would send Randy Johnson back to the Diamondbacks in exchange for young pitching talent. At first glance you have to wonder whether this deal makes sense given the youth movement the Diamondbacks have been touting for the past several months. Wasn’t this the same team that told fan favorite Luis Gonzalez in no uncertain terms that he was too old to play here? Last time I looked, Randy Johnson was 4 years older than Luis Gonzalez. Furthermore, Randy was always one who walked to a different drummer and did not endear himself as the most approachable guy from a fan’s prospective. A prime example of that came the day that Randy was signed in 1999. Channel 3 reporter Gil Tyree thought it would be cool to go to Randy’s house and interview him unannounced. That was about the last time that Gil was seen anywhere near a Diamondbacks player. Personally I applauded Randy for that action since Gil was a jerk but that is best left for another time. So as these rumors swirled, I had to wonder what exactly was up with this idea.
Two things immediately jump to mind. First, the Diamondbacks are in desperate need of a face for the franchise. With the departure of Luis Gonzalez, this team has no marquee player on which to hang their hat. Granted Brandon Webb is making a name for himself especially after winning the 2006 Cy Young award but he’s still relatively unknown throughout most of the country. He doesn’t have nearly enough name recognition to be a draw or tag line leading up to a game of the week telecast. Randy Johnson on the other hand is immediately identifiable if for no other reason than he is the largest player in Major League Baseball. Johnson has had tremendous success in the past for the Diamondbacks and as he nears the end of what will be a Hall of Fame career, he has an opportunity to set some milestones in wins and strikeouts that will endear him to the hearts of baseball fans everywhere. The biggest question on everyone’s mind is how much does Randy really have left and what will the Diamondbacks have to give up in order to sign him. Randy has one year remaining on a deal he signed with the Yankees which calls for him to make $16 million this year. Given the parameters set forth by management, the Diamondbacks had roughly $10 million earmarked for upgrading their pitching staff making a delta of $6 million. There is also the fact that Randy is recovering from his second back surgery and at the age of 43, he may not recover as quickly as he did the first time. This is definitely a gamble but one that could pay big dividends both from a marketing and a player personnel perspective. It will be interesting to see how this on plays out.