boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Johnson is open to deal

Ace would consider leaving Arizona

HOUSTON -- It has gone beyond the rumor stage. Randy Johnson, the 40-year-old, five-time Cy Young Award winner who added a perfect game and his 4,000th strikeout to his resume earlier this season, said yesterday that he would consider a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks, which places the front offices of the Red Sox and Yankees on high alert before the July 31 trading deadline.

Johnson, after expressing annoyance at the speculation regarding his future and deflecting questions about a possible trade at an All-Star interview session yesterday, finally was reminded by one reporter that because of his no-trade clause, he could end the speculation himself.

"Just say `I live in Arizona, I like Arizona, and I don't want to leave Arizona,' " the reporter said.

"I live in Arizona," Johnson said. "I like Arizona. My children go to school in Arizona."

He stopped. The reporter persisted. What about the last part, "I don't want to leave Arizona."

"I don't know if I can say that," Johnson replied.

"I haven't been approached by the Diamondbacks yet to waive my no-trade clause. The only way I probably want to leave would be if it would benefit the Diamondbacks by leaving, they wouldn't have to pay my salary and that money could go somewhere else, and that the players they would get would help them, and the situation is going to work for me.

"I'm not going to leave to go to a situation where a team theoretically has a chance to win. There has been no list of teams. Teams that have a chance to win. That's the only way.

"So there. You got what you wanted. I'm not talking about it anymore."

And then he continued. He was asked if he'd initiated discussions with the Diamondbacks about a trade. "Whatever they want to do. [Former Arizona third baseman] Matt Williams had a no-trade clause, and they tried trading him to Colorado. Whatever they want to do, they're going to do. I don't care. You see it all the time. Not just with me."

Knowing what kind of impact trade speculation has had in New York and Boston, the AL East rivals expected to be vigorous in their pursuit of him, Johnson offered a joke. Asked what he recalled about a past visit to Boston, Johnson said: "I was really torn between Manhattan clam chowder and Boston clam chowder. Really torn."

Johnson, whose table in a Houston ballroom had reporters crowded six-deep around him, initially was not forthcoming. He complained about the rampant speculation that he was about to leave the Diamondbacks, who are 18 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West and at 31-58 have the worst record in the major leagues.

"The inaccurate reporting makes me laugh," he said. "Reading that I want an extension is the only way I would accept a trade is absolutely incorrect. Rumors that I would only go to Anaheim because I have a house there is absolutely incorrect."

Johnson was asked about the accuracy of the statement made last week by Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who won a World Series with Johnson for Arizona in 2001, that Schilling had called his former teammate "20 or 25 times" this season. "I've got voice mail on my phone. I'm certain he leaves a lot of messages," he said.

The implication, of course, was that Johnson was not actively consulting Schilling about his future.

"No one's going to convince Randy to do it," Schilling said later in the afternoon when asked about a possible trade. "I played with him long enough, we're close enough, that I know he's his own person. The decision that Randy makes, as I said earlier, he's going to make a decision that's best for his family and the best for the last year and a half of his career. I knew that when this came up a month ago."

Asked whether he'd like to pitch with Johnson, Schilling said: "You know the answer to that question. It's obvious. Who wouldn't want to pitch with Randy Johnson? I bet if you ask Javier Vazquez [of the Yankees] the same question, he'd answer the same way."

Johnson enters the All-Star break with a 10-7 record and 2.99 ERA. He leads the National League in strikeouts with 145 in 129 1/3 innings -- his ratio of 10.09 K's per nine innings is second to the Pirates' Oliver Perez (10.82) -- and opponents are batting .188 against him, second-lowest in the majors (Jason Schmidt of the Giants is No. 1 at .174).

Johnson is being paid $16 million this season, and is due an additional $16 million next year, the last year of his contract. He said yesterday he has not yet decided whether he wants to pitch beyond the 2005 season, which is one reason, he said, speculation he would demand an extension as a condition of a trade is so misguided.

"It's just a hard question," he said when asked about pitching beyond next year. "You know what would be a great thing, is to be able to still play and put up the numbers and then decide I don't want to play.

"My back is fine. I don't have anything [wrong] with my back, like a lot of reports. My knee is fine. But what to do next year, if I still feel fine, we'll have to wait until next year. Will I have the same desire to play? What am I going to feel like? I would feel guilty committing to something [an extension] now. An extension is the furthest thing from my mind."

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is in Houston this week, along with executives of the other 29 major league clubs, but will not address the Johnson issue because of concerns of tampering. Major League Baseball investigated Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after he talked about how "anyone would love to have Johnson."

The Angels, who probably could put together a more attractive package of young players than either the Sox or Yankees, also are expected to bid for Johnson, and other teams could emerge. The Diamondbacks are not wild about trading Johnson, the face of their franchise, but probably would accede to his request for a deal.

Yankees players, like Schilling, have not been shy about saying how much they'd like Johnson. All-Star closer Mariano Rivera said last week he hoped "Mr. George" would make a bid, and All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez said he intended to speak with Johnson here. Told that A-Rod was looking to talk to him, Johnson said: "Who?"

Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

red sox extras
SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives