Diamondbacks Debate: Good Deal or Bad Deal?

and Keith Glab
Posted Jan 9, 2007

The Arizona Diamondbacks made a huge splash when they acquired Randy Johnson in a five-player deal with the Yankees. But what scores will the judges hold up on their cards? Keith Glab and James Renwick of FutureBacks.com take up the debate, analyzing the quality of the trade from several angles.

The re-acquisition of Randy Johnson was an excellent move by the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Neither Doug Davis nor Livan Hernandez, the two other recently acquired veteran starters, has a realistic shot at posting a sub-4.00 ERA at Chase Field.  When healthy, the Big Unit is a great bet to do just that.  The Diamondbacks already had a deep enough staff to get by without Randy, so even if he only makes 25 starts this season, so be it.  Of paramount importance is that Johnson (along with Brandon Webb) gives the Diamondbacks two starters who can dominate an opposing lineup on any given day.
This trade sends fans and opposing teams alike a message: The Diamondbacks are not just in rebuilding mode.  They are legitimate contenders for the postseason.     
That would be great logic, if it was 2002 instead of 2006.  Randy Johnson is no longer going to dominate a lineup "on any given day," in fact its much more likely that we'll be wondering if he'll even take the mound "on any given day."  Any deal that comes with prospects is going to feature a plethora of 'ifs' because we won't know for a year or two (or five) if those prospects will really pan out, but this one comes with more than its share considering that Randy may not even be ready for opening day after offseason back surgery. 
Randy figures to be our #4 starter, despite the fact that he'll be listed as our #2.  He's on the tail end of a career, and yes, if he's healthy, he's a great #4 (even a pretty good #2) but this move smack of marketing more than it does 'legitimate contender.'  The D'Backs needed to move some Sedona Red jerseys, and until Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Chris Young, Carlos Quentin and the rest of the youngsters (I'm terrified of using the term 'BabyBacks' after the '04 debacle) prove themselves, slapping a '51' on the back of one of those babies is likely to get some traction.
It's the first time since he's taken over that Josh Byrnes has made a move that mortgages the future for the now, and I'm not sure this was the deal to do it on.
Everyone thought that Johnson was finished after his 2003 season, so I'm not ready to count him out just yet.  If he puts up numbers anywhere close to his 2004 or 2005 seasons this year, then he will be our #2 starter, and arguably the best #2 starter in the National League.
Yes, the fact that the Big Unit will sell jerseys and tickets is a bonus; it's what helps offset the fact that the Yankees are only shouldering $2 million of his 2007 salary.  But even if you discount all the money that he's going to bring back to this organization, take a look around the current pitching market.  Would you rather have Vicente Padilla for $9 million, Andy Pettitte for $16 million, or Randy Johnson for $14 million?  I thought so.
Well, I'd certainly rather have Andy Pettitte for one year at $16 million than Randy for multiple years.  It's bad enough the D'Backs have been paying deferred salaries to players on other teams, now we're going the Stottlemyre route again and paying salaries to guys who won't be playing at all?
The worst part about the contract extension is that it offers up the possibility that Ohlendorf and Jackson might be playing in the bigs while Randy is sucking wind in the bigs still.  If we'd only kept him for the one season, then by the time the youngsters we just gave up made the big leagues, Randy would be off in the retirement community, now he's going to get compared, and that's not fair for anybody, not Randy, not the fans, not the D'Backs.
Time will tell, but I think Byrnes, for the first time in his tenure here, made a knee jerk, business minded (over baseball minded) move.
I don't believe that losing Steven Jackson and Ross Ohlendorf hurts any more than losing Garrett Mock and Matt Chico did.  Alberto Gonzalez wasn't going to fit into the D'Backs' plans with Stephen Drew around, anyway.  So given that the Big Unit is about five times more talented than Livan Hernandez makes this a better deal for Arizona.  If Randy draws fans by getting win #300, inning pitched #4,000, and strikeout #5,000 in the desert, then maybe he enters Cooperstown as a Diamondback as well. 
For FutureBacks.com, I'm Keith Glab
and I'm James Renwick

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