There are been many reported variations on the deal, but one part has been pretty much universally agreed upon. The D'Backs are going to give up one of their top pitching prospects, either Micah Owings, Dustin Nippert or Ross Ohlendorf, and reliever Brandon Medders. Reports have had a third player included, and FutureBacks.com has learned that third player could be first baseman/outfield/DH Chris Carter.
Randy Johnson is a 43 year old left hander with Hall of Fame credentials and a medical report that could fuel an entire season of "House" episodes. His knee, back, and shoulder have all given him issues in the past two seasons, and his salary has been giving the Diamondbacks fits for the last two seasons as well. He has not been the same pitcher who won four Cy Young awards in Arizona. Not even close.
The problem here is one of now vs. later. By making this move the Diamondbacks are, without a shadow of a doubt, making a statement to fans. First, go buy a new uniform. While Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Miguel Montero, Carlos Quentin, and Chris Young may be merchandise-moving stars of tomorrow, right now they are unproven youngsters. Randy Johnson is not, and the die-hard fans in Arizona are most certainly going to be online minutes after the deal, buying Sedona red and black '45' jerseys.
Second, we're going to try and win right now. Though there is a talented nucleus of young players, most would pick the D'Backs to finish, at best, third in the NL West behind the revamped Dodgers and perennial contender Padres. With the signing of Barry Zito even the nursing home ready Giants might be looked at as a better club than the Diamondbacks right now. Getting Randy Johnson back would give the D'Backs the marquee offseason acquisition they have been looking for.
The problem is that he is no longer a marquee pitcher, just a marquee name.
Don't get me wrong, when I first heard about the possibility I got excited as well. Randy comes back into the desert, giving the D'Backs a legit #2 and starting rotation of Brandon Webb, Johnson, Livan Hernandez, Doug Davis and Enrique Gonzalez. That is a pretty starting five, or at least is would be if Randy made 30 starts.
But it seems unlikely he will. Maybe the warm weather will sooth his achy joints. Maybe the dimmer spotlight will calm is raging temper. Maybe the various retirement communities spread out through the Valley of the Sun will remind Randy what he's pitching for, but at $16 million this year, and a similar amount in 2008 is too high a price to pay.
And the talent they are giving up is too high as well. Owings is the pitcher most often named, and he is the one ready to take a huge step forward, after taking a giant step forward last season. Owings has become one of the top pitching prospects in the nation, and the second highest rated pitching prospect in the D'Backs organization (we have him rated #6 on The FutureBacks 50, just behind lefty Greg Smith).
Will Randy come? Increasingly the reports look like the answer will be 'yes.' Will the D'Backs give up too much to get him? Increasingly the answer looks like 'yes.' Will it matter if the Diamondbacks sell another 10,000 '45' jerseys in the new colors? Maybe not, but come September...of 2008 when the D'Backs are wishing Owings was anchoring the rotation with Webb during a pennant chase instead of watching Randy on the disabled list, it very well might.