from NY TimesJuly 14, 2004Garciaparra and Johnson Linked in TalksBy JACK CURRY
OUSTON, July 13 - The expected pursuit of Randy Johnson has officially intensified with the Boston Red Sox contemplating a two-part deal in which they would send Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs to secure prospects and then use those young players as part of a package to acquire Johnson from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
An American League team executive, who has been briefed on the trade discussions, said the Red Sox were talking with at least one team about using Garciaparra as a chip to help land the 40-year-old Johnson, who is a five-time Cy Young award winner. And that team is the Chicago Cubs, whose farm system is rich in pitching.
Garciaparra is a longtime star in Boston, but last winter the Red Sox were prepared to replace him at shortstop with Alex Rodriguez, who was with the Texas Rangers and is widely considered the best player in baseball. The Red Sox would have sent Manny Ramirez to Texas for Rodriguez, then shipped Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordóñez. But after the Rodriguez-for-Manny Ramirez trade talks famously crumbled, Boston ended up keeping Garciaparra, who was stung by all the maneuvering. Rodriguez, of course, ended up with the Yankees.
Now the Red Sox are trying to outdo the Yankees for another future Hall of Fame player in Johnson and they see the Cubs as a possible conduit for making it happen. If the Red Sox cannot make a deal with the Cubs, they will try the same approach with other teams. The lightly regarded Rey Ordóñez currently plays shortstop for the Cubs because Alex Gonzalez has a broken wrist. The 30-year-old Garciaparra, who missed much of this season with an Achilles' tendon injury and is in the last year of his contract, would be a huge upgrade.
Johnson said on Monday that he would be amenable to waiving his no-trade clause if it benefited the Diamondbacks and if he went to a team with a strong chance of winning a World Series title. He said there is no list of teams, but the Yankees and the Red Sox are definitely interested and the Cubs were thought to be, too, although they may now be turning their attention to Garciaparra.
Whether Johnson would accept a trade to the Red Sox is uncertain. While Johnson and Boston's Curt Schilling combined to lead the Diamondbacks to a championship in 2001, it is believed that Johnson prefers to keep the more effusive Schilling at a distance. Still, Schilling has left several recruiting messages for his former teammate.
"There's a reason why I changed my number," Johnson said. It was not clear if he was joking.
Boston General Manager Theo Epstein declined to comment about Johnson through Peter Chase, a team spokesman. Similarly, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said he had no conversations with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
Even though Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez vowed to speak to Johnson during the All-Star Game festivities about pitching for the Yankees, Johnson said, "I didn't hear anything from any of those guys, so, again, that would be a rumor."
After Johnson stopped by Mike Piazza's locker before the All-Star Game to shake his hand, Piazza said, "Come to the Mets." Piazza said he made a recruiting pitch by telling Johnson that his wife would love the shopping and that his four children would enjoy the parks and museums in New York. But Johnson denied speaking to Piazza.
"I think he was being playful," Johnson said. "He didn't say anything to me."
Until now, Johnson has spent his long career playing in the relatively sedate surroundings of Montreal, Seattle, Houston and Arizona. How he would react to the more intense atmosphere of Boston or New York is not known, although he did run into difficulty Tuesday while bantering in the clubhouse with several New York-area reporters.
After Johnson checked Lawrence Rocca's press badge and noticed he was from The Star-Ledger of Newark, another reporter teasingly told Johnson to be careful because The Star-Ledger was the newspaper that the mobster Tony Soprano read in "The Sopranos.'' Rocca told Johnson the paper had a good real estate section if he needed to relocate to New Jersey.
"Now I'm not going to go there just because you guys are making a mockery of it," Johnson said, suddenly growing irate. "This is my livelihood."
Johnson told Rocca he was seeing Johnson's "dark side" and ordered him to "walk away." When Rocca did not immediately leave, Johnson told him it would be advisable to leave before he did something he regretted.
Perhaps the incident revealed that Johnson is on edge as he weighs his future. George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees, is known to be fascinated with adding Johnson, a marquee pitcher who he sees in the same mold as Roger Clemens. Howard Rubenstein, Steinbrenner's spokesman, said Tuesday that Steinbrenner would not discuss Johnson.
Cashman spoke last week with Joe Garagiola Jr., the Diamondbacks' general manager, and the Diamondbacks said that Johnson was unavailable. The Diamondbacks would presumably include the Yankees in any kind of Johnson sweepstakes, even though New York does not currently have an abundance of minor league prospects.
The Yankees could include the Class AAA catcher Dioner Navarro and the Class AAA second baseman Robinson Cano, their two prime prospects, in a trade proposal. But the Diamondbacks would obviously want much more for their franchise pitcher and would probably wait until they got closer to the July 31 deadline before making a possible deal.
Cashman has told team officials he is confident about devising an enticing enough proposal to obtain Johnson. The Yankees are not interested in unloading José Contreras and absorbing a chunk of the $20 million left on his deal because they would be adding $24 million over the next season and a half if they snared Johnson.
Johnson is 10-7 with a 2.99 earned run average this season and has grown weary with losing with the last-place Diamondbacks. He argued with his teammate Luis Gonzalez after a botched fly ball last week and has been mostly testy with reporters who have asked trade questions.
"I'm not a nice guy," Johnson said. "I'm a mean guy."