Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 19 News List

NY Yankees eye Big Unit

AMERICAN BASEBALL The Yankees closed in on a three-team trade that will send Randy Johnson to New York, Javier Vazquez to the LA Dodgers and Shawn Green to Arizona


New York Mets newly signed starting pitcher Pedro Martinez flips the ball up in the air while standing on the pitcher's mound at Shea stadium in Queens, New York on Thursday. Martinez accepted a US$53 million, four-year contract with the Mets in a deal that was finalized on Wednesday after Martinez passed the team's physical.


On a day of big movement in baseball, the New York Yankees are on the verge of claiming the biggest prize of all.

The Yankees closed in on completing a blockbuster three-team trade that would send pitching ace Randy Johnson to New York, pitcher Javier Vazquez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and first baseman Shawn Green to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a source told AP.

"It is going to happen," a source familiar with the negotiations said on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier Thursday, the Atlanta Braves made another huge pitch for success, getting pitcher Tim Hudson in a trade from Oakland, and the Seattle Mariners signed another slugger, agreeing on a contract with All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre.

After blowing a 3-0 lead in the American League championship series to Boston last season, the Yankees set out in the offseason to upgrade their starting pitching. They are close to finalizing contracts with free-agent pitchers Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, but Johnson, known as the Big Unit, is the player they coveted most to match up against the Red Sox and his former teammate, Curt Schilling.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner is in the final year of a contract that will pay him US$16 million next season. He has a no-trade clause and it was unclear if the Yankees had to agree to extend his contract to make the deal go through.

Johnson, 41, wanted out of Arizona so he could pitch with a contender. He went 16-14 with a 2.60 ERA and 290 strikeouts last season for the Diamondbacks, who finished 51-111. Johnson has 246 career wins and is third all-time with 4,161 career strikeouts.

Fox Sports and Newsday reported on their Web sites that the other players involved in the deal are two Yankees prospects, catcher Dioner Navarro and third baseman Eric Duncan, who would be going to Los Angeles, and Dodgers pitchers Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban, who would be sent to Arizona.

None of the teams would confirm the deal.

Still Talking

"We're still in conversations with a lot of different clubs about a lot of different possibilities," Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta said. "We have talked about some three-way deals and some four-way deals. I don't know if it's going to happen or not."

Green, who is also owed US$16 million in the final year of his contract, hit 91 homers in 2001-2002 but dropped to just 47 over the last two seasons. He batted .266 with 28 homers and 86 RBIs in 2004.

Vazquez, 28, struggled in his one season in New York, going 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. He is owed US$35.5 million over the next three years.

Penny, acquired in the middle of last season from Florida, was shut down with a shoulder injury down the stretch for the Dodgers. The 26-year-old right-hander has a 49-44 career record. Brazoban, 24, went 6-2 with a 2.48 ERA in 31 games for Los Angeles last season.

Earlier Thursday, the Braves swooped in and acquired Hudson for outfielder Charles Thomas and pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer.

The Braves have won 13 straight division titles. Last Saturday, they got All-Star closer Dan Kolb from Milwaukee -- a move that allowed them to move John Smoltz back into the rotation.

"This winter, we have set our sights on going back to sort of the old-fashioned Braves' way of building championship teams with dominant pitching," Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz said. "That's what we think we have done."

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