Randy Johnson Wants to Play for a Contender

Do you think the Dodgers are a contender? Actually, that's really a rhetorical question. The real question is, Does Randy Johnson think the Dodgers are a contender?

The Diamondback ace says he's willing to agree to a deal if sent to a potential World Series team. But as bunched as each division is, there are a whole bucket full of contenders at the present time.

And if Randy thinks the Dodgers would fill his criteria, who would you part with to obtain the Arizona ace for the next two years, since he seems sincere when he says he will not pitch beyond 2005.

When Paul Lo Duca saw Johnson at the All-Star Game in Houston he said something that General Manager Paul DePodesta could not say, "Hey, do you want to come to L.A.?"

Johnson's declaration the day before the game was played that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause and would accept a trade from Arizona so he might pitch again in the World Series, set off shock waves that radiated throughout baseball.

"It's going to have to be somewhere — and, no, there's no list of teams — with a team that has a chance to win," Johnson told the Los Angeles times.

Johnson, 40, will be pursued by the Dodgers, Angels, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and New York Yankees in hopes of adding the five-time Cy Young Award winner to their roster.

In the National League West, with the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres bunched within two games, or in the American League West, with the Angels, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics all within 2 1/2 games of the lead, its obvious that Johnson could easily take a team into October action.

Before the Diamondbacks spiraled to the worst record in baseball, they said they would not consider trading Johnson unless he asked them for a trade.

"The only way that I would want to leave would be that I'm benefiting the Diamondbacks in leaving, and I think I would be doing that," Johnson said, "because they wouldn't have to pay my salary — that could go toward helping somewhere else — and because of the players they would get in return."

Johnson wouldn't come without cost, both in cash and in prospects. He earns $32 million over the next two years, so a team trading for him by the July 31 deadline would owe him more than $21 million — $5.3 million for the balance of this season's salary and $16 million next season.

The Diamondbacks would want young, talented, cheap players, close to the major leagues if not already there. In preliminary discussions, the Diamondbacks asked the Angels for two or three of their top prospects.

Johnson denied reports that he would ask for a contract extension if traded. He mentioned he had not determined if he would pitch beyond 2005 -- the end of his current contract -- and he also denied that he wanted to play for an Angels because he owns a home in Newport Beach.

The Seattle Mariners traded him to the Houston Astros in 1998 and got pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama and shortstop Carlos Guillen in the deal. Johnson help up his end of the trade, going 10-1 but Houston lost in the playoffs.

Johnson was co-MVP in the 2001 World Series but said that another Cy Young Award would not mean as much to him as another World Series opportunity.

At the All-Star break, Johnson is 10-7 with a 2.99 earned-run average, including a perfect game against the Atlanta Braves in May. He leads the majors with 145 strikeouts, and opponents are hitting .188 against him.

Worth the money? Sure.

Worth three top prospects -- RHPs Edwin Jackson, Joel Hanrahan, Yhency Brazoban, Chad Billingsley, 1B James Loney, catchers Koyie Hill and Edwin Bellorin, 2B Willie Aybar, -- mix and match as you will -- that is another question, one that former GM Dan Evans avoided, vowing not to trade the club's future.

And even if we offer a trio of the above mentioned youngsters, or others in the system for that matter, would that be enough to top offers by the Yankees? Or Boston?

DePodesta said that he is still in a buying mode and had been talking to a number of teams about possible deals. He also said that he felt that if the Dodgers made a trade it would be a big one.

Johnson was besieged by other All-Stars, each attempting to sell the big lefty on coming to their club but finally grew weary of the sales pitches and told Lo Duca, "Enough. That's all I've heard today."