Johnson Returns To Diamondbacks




The Deal
After two underwhelming seasons in the Bronx, Randy Johnson returned to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday. The Yankees sent him back in exchange for Luis Vizcaino and three minor leaguers: righthanders Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, and shortstop Alberto Gonzalez. New York also will pay $2 million of Johnson's 2007 salary.
The Big Leaguers
Johnson won four Cy Young Awards and the 2001 World Series in six seasons with Arizona before going to the Yankees in a January 2005 trade. He went 34-19, 4.37 in two seasons in New York, winning games more because of run support than because of the sheer dominance he had shown in the past. His 2006 season was his worst in the majors, as he went 17-11, 5.00 with a 172-60 K-BB ratio in 205 innings. The 43-year-old lefthander likely is no better than an average pitcher at this point. Johnson's contract called for a $16 million salary in 2007. The Diamondbacks have reworked it into a two-year, $26 million deal that includes a $12 million bonus paid over the next four seasons, as well as a $4 million salary in 2007 and a $10 million salary in 2008.

Vizcaino, a 32-year-old righthander, joins his fourth team in four seasons. Arizona acquired him in the December 2005 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the White Sox. A solid setup man, Vizcaino is a power pitcher who can struggle with his command at times. Last year, he went 4-6, 3.58 with a 72-29 K-BB ratio in 65 innings. He's eligible for salary arbitration.

The Prospects
Ohlendorf, 24, was a fourth-round pick out of Princeton in 2004. He finally began living up to his potential last year, when he went 10-8, 3.29 with a 125-29 K-BB ratio in 27 starts at Double-A Tennessee. (He also made one start for Triple-A Tucson.) Six-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he throws a hard 89-94 mph sinker, a changeup and a decent slider. He's still figuring out how to get lefthanders out (they hit .324 against him in 2006) and may project best as a setup man.

Gonzalez, 23, signed out of Venezuela in 2003. He's a tremendous defensive shortstop with well above-average range and a strong arm. Though he has improved offensively, he doesn't offer much in the way of power, speed or walks. He spent most of 2006 in Double-A, hitting .290/.356/.392 with six homers and 50 RBIs in 129 games. If it all works out, he could become an Adam Everett-type player.

Jackson, 24, is another big righthander who was drafted in 2004 and is coming off his best season. Six-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he was a 10th-rounder out of Clemson. Jackson ranked second in the Double-A Southern League in ERA last year, going 8-11, 2.65 with a 125-45 K-BB ratio in 150 innings. He's a sinker-slider pitcher whose fastball velocity ranges from 88-94 mph. He also has a splitter and changeup. As with Ohlendorf, he may fit best in a bullpen role in the long run.

Quick Take
Though the Diamondbacks didn't surrender a blue-chip prospect, the cost of a $24 million contract, a useful big league reliever and three solid minor leaguers is high for a 43-year-old pitcher on the decline. The Yankees got rid of a pitcher who never fit in well in New York, fortified their bullpen with Vizcaino and added more depth to their farm system.

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