Yankees, D’backs finally close Johnson, Green deals

By Jim Callis
January 11, 2005

After weeks of speculation, Randy Johnson joined the Yankees and Shawn Green became a Diamondback on Tuesday. First, Arizona sent Johnson to New York for Javier Vazquez and prospects Dioner Navarro and Brad Halsey. Then the Diamondbacks sent Navarro and minor league righthanders William Juarez, Beltran Perez and Danny Muegge to the Dodgers for Shawn Green.

It wouldn’t be a Yankees trade if significant cash weren’t involved. New York gave Johnson a two-year, $32 million contract extension on top of the $16 million he’ll make in 2005, and sent $9 million to Arizona to help defray the remaining three years and $34.5 million remaining on Vazquez’ deal. Los Angeles gave $10 million to the Diamondbacks to offset the $16 million salary due in 2005 for Green, who reworked his contact into a three-year, $32 million pact. The Dodgers put some of their savings into a four-year, $36 million contract for free agent Derek Lowe, a deal on the verge of being finalized.

The net effect for Arizona: It traded Johnson and three minor league arms (none considered a top prospect) for Vazquez, Green, Halsey and $19 million.

Assuming that no one needs a scouting report on Johnson (tall guy, throws hard), Vazquez (quality stuff, 2004 all-star but a 6.92 ERA after the break) and Green (91 homers in 2001-02, 47 in 2003-04 while battling a shoulder injury and recovering from surgery), let’s focus on the young players in the deal.

Navarro, a 20-year-old catcher, signed out of Venezuela in 2000. He entered 2004 as the Yankees’ top prospect, but his stock dropped after he arrived in spring training overweight and overconfident. His bat speed slowed and he hit .263/.340/.366 with four homers and 45 RBIs in 110 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Columbus. In 2003, he had made consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate. His best tool is his strong arm, which erased 33 percent of basestealers last year, while his receiving skills are average. The Dodgers have had a hole at catcher since trading Paul LoDuca last summer, and Navarro now becomes their second-best backstop prospect, trailing Russell Martin. Navarro, who went 3-for-7 in his big league debut last September, could see time in Los Angeles this year but likely will start the season in Triple-A. He’s a career .277/.349/.402 hitter with 21 homers and 168 RBIs in 356 minor league games.

Halsey, 23, was an eighth-round pick out of Texas in 2002, when he was the No. 1 starter on the Longhorns’ College World Series championship team (though he missed Omaha with a back injury). The Yankees gave him a shot at pitching in their rotation last summer, and he went 1-3, 6.47 in eight games (seven starts). He spent most of 2004 at Columbus, going 11-4, 2.63 in 24 outings (23 starts). He had a 109-37 strikeout-walk ratio in 144 innings, while opponents batted .237 with eight homers. Halsey throws strikes but lacks an out pitch, which hurts his ceiling. His best offering is his slider, and he also works with an 87-90 mph fastball and a changeup. Halsey, who could grab the last spot in Arizona’s rotation during spring training, has a career 34-14, 3.26 record in 64 minor league games.

A Nicaraguan, the 23-year-old Juarez turned pro in 2000. Brought along slowly and usually old for his league, he began 2004 by going 3-1, 1.55 in seven starts at low Class A South Bend, improving his career record to 24-12, 2.61. Promoted to Double-A El Paso to face hitters more his own age, Juarez struggled to a 3-7, 5.00 mark in 13 starts. In 76 innings at Double-A, he had a 68-22 K-BB ratio while opponents hit .269 with four homers. He owns a plus fastball, but he’ll need to make significant refinements to his slider and changeup to succeed at the upper levels.

Perez, 23, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1999. Once one of Arizona’s top pitching prospects, Perez hit a wall upon reaching Double-A in 2002 and hasn’t been able to get past it. He spent all of 2004 at El Paso, going 2-6, 4.41 with three saves in 37 appearances (eight starts). He had a 77-46 K-BB ratio in 104 innings as opponents batted .261 with 14 homers. Like Juarez, his low-90s fastball is his lone reliable pitch. His slider is more of a slurve and his changeup hasn’t progressed. He’s a career 33-33, 4.28 pitcher in 149 pro games.

Another former Longhorn, the 23-year-old Muegge was a 19th-round pick in 2003. He’s also similar to Halsey in that he doesn’t have a pitch that distinguishes himself. His fastball and breaking ball are average, and he projects more as a reliever despite going 14-4, 3.12 in 26 games (25 starts) at South Bend last year. Muegge had a 104-42 K-BB ratio, .253 opponent average and 16 homers allowed in 153 innings. His career record is 16-7, 3.32 in 47 games (25 starts).