Randy Johnson didn't get what he wanted for Christmas -- a trade to the New York Yankees -- but the big left-hander was still holding out that a New Year's resolution could be made among the Diamondbacks, Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers that would put the deal back on the table.
The Dodgers withdrew from the three-team, 10-player swap on Dec. 21 although there were whispers the deal could be re-consummated after the holidays, especially now that the Dodgers have signed right fielder J.D. Drew to a free-agent contract.
The Diamondbacks likely won't sit idle for very long. They desperately wanted to get right fielder Shawn Green and pitchers Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban from the Dodgers and thought they had a deal. If they can't re-open trade talks with the Dodgers, it is believed they will seek out another team that can provide similar players in return and still pacify Johnson by dealing him to New York.
"I think in terms of putting a team together, there's a time you really need to focus on ... and have the piece in place," Diamondbacks' co-owner Ken Kendrick said. "There are always some smaller pieces that come together a little later, but that baseline team, the pitching, position players, we really want to have that done by year end or not long thereafter. We're still trying."
But what happens if an acceptable deal can't be struck and Johnson has nowhere to go but to stay in Arizona? Though he has indicated through agent Alan Nero that he would honor the final year of his contract -- the Diamondbacks owe him $16 million, $6 million of which is deferred -- Johnson could easily become a distraction from the moment pitchers and catchers report to Tucson for spring training.
Johnson is prone to sulk and can be very temperamental, and by not getting the trade he has requested, the clubhouse would be on a constant state of alert. That's something the Diamondbacks and new manager Bob Melvin don't need -- not if they're serious about making a quick about-face on the 2004 season, in which Arizona sank to scary depths with a 51-111 record, the worst finish by a National League club since 1965.
So don't be surprised to see Johnson dealt to the Yanks at some point, likely before the start of the season. New York has tried at least three times since July to finalize a deal with Arizona, but each time it has collapsed. If a fourth attempt also fails, the Diamondbacks might decide it isn't worth the extra effort and could decide to keep Johnson as long as possible.
Johnson pitched masterfully last season under the constant duress of trade reports, but it clearly was irritating him and his teammates, making a losing season that much more difficult. The Diamondbacks approached Johnson, 41, about a possible contract extension, but Johnson apparently didn't show much interest, reiterating his first wish is to pitch for the Yankees.
--RHP Brandon Medders and LHP Shane Nance were not tendered contracts, opening two more spots on the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster.
--The Diamondbacks announced that Bill Plummer, who managed at Class A (short-season) Yakima last season, will manage the Class A Lancaster JetHawks, who were led in 2004 by Wally Backman. Jeff Pico (pitching) and Damon Mashore (hitting) were named to the Lancaster coaching staff.
Jay Gainer, the hitting coach the last two seasons in Yakima, was promoted to be the Bears' new manager. Erik Sabel was named pitching coach and Luis De Los Santos hitting coach.
--The Diamondbacks named Dennis Lewallyn as the organizational pitching coordinator, a position he previously has held for three seasons. Rick Schu, the Diamondbacks' hitting coach last season, returns to his role as organizational hitting coordinator. Jack Howell moves from hitting coordinator to field coordinator in 2005, and David Nilsson will serve as catching coordinator. Lee Tinsley will return for his third season an outfielder coordinator.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Number of times the New York Yankees thought they might have a deal in place to acquire LHP Randy Johnson from the Diamondbacks, only to see each deal to fall apart.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Whether Randy is here or not, I think we're going to be very competitive." -- Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin.
SS Royce Clayton signed a one-year deal worth $1.28 million and will be Arizona's everyday starter in 2005. 2B Craig Counsell signed a two-year deal worth $3.1 million and is expected to be the club's starting second baseman next season. C Kelly Stinnett agreed to a minor-league contract. RHP Andrew Good was released. LHP Shane Nance was designated for assignment. 1B Richie Sexson signed with Seattle as a free agent.
ARRIVALS: 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Anaheim). RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent from Atlanta), SS Royce Clayton (free agent from Colorado), INF Craig Counsell (free agent from Milwaukee), C Kelly Stinnett (free agent from Kansas City).
DEPARTURES: 1B Richie Sexson (free agent, signed with Seattle), RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantei (free agent, signed with Boston), RHP Andrew Good (released, signed with Detroit), LHP Shane Nance (non-tendered).
BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona's starting rotation still is in flux, depending on what happens with LHP Randy Johnson. The addition of RHP Russ Ortiz is a good start, but the team can't stop there. The team was angling for another veteran starter, LHP Shawn Estes.
FREE AGENTS: RHPs Shane Reynolds, Steve Sparks, Mike Fetters and Scott Service; LHP Jeff Fassero; INFs Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga; and OF Danny Bautista were not offered salary arbitration.
The Diamondbacks offered arbitration to 1B Richie Sexson, but he left as a free agent and signed with Seattle.
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: LHP Randy Choate, LHP Casey Fossum, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP Brandon Lyon.
The arrival of Glaus could make Hillenbrand trade bait. Koplove was one of the mainstays to a rather unpredictable bullpen even though he didn't have his greatest season. He will be back, however, as a setup man.
IN LIMBO: LHP Randy Johnson, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, SS Alex Cintron.
Arizona has to make sure it gets fair market value for the Big Unit, which has made things tricky. But getting Brad Penny, Shawn Green and Yhency Brazoban would have been a good return. With Glaus joining the lineup, Hillenbrand could be dealt. Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at second base and will compete with Counsell there now that Clayton has been signed to play short.
MEDICAL WATCH: LF Luis Gonzalez, who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right throwing elbow, will begin throwing around Christmas to test his rebuilt arm. C/INF Robby Hammock was scheduled to meet with surgeons who operated on his left knee in spring training to see if another surgery is necessary.