The night the Yankees were eliminated by the Tigers, I still remember having a somewhat gin soaked conversation with fellow fans about what we needed to do next. We came to the general consensus that the following players needed to go: Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Gary Sheffield, and Alex Rodriguez. Cashman has now successfully jettisoned 3 of those 4. A-Rod has a no trade clause and doesn’t want to go anywhere, but from what I’ve read Cashman did at least inquire as to whether or not he would waive it (and Jason Giambi as well).
When Jaret Wright and Randy Johnson’s names were brought up, everyone subsequently groaned that we’d never be able to trade them. I argued that surely if we ate enough of Randy Johnson’s contract, someone would take him on. Well turns out, not only did we have to eat less than 2 million, we actually got some prospects back in return and a quality arm for the bullpen.
Randy Johnson was not a terrible pitcher the past 2 years. He won 34 games and each season logged over 200 innings. His ERA of 5.00 last year though would indicate he was a below average pitcher and he did lead the majors in run support. To his credit, his strikeout and hits per inning show that his ERA was partially a result of terrible luck, and having watched most of his starts, I agree to an extent. It seemed like (and in fact was the case) that most baserunners who got on against the unit came around to score. The hits he gave up were always at the most inopportune time. This is probably not entirely Randy’s fault; however you do get the sense that something about the unit in pinstripes wasn’t working.
And this leads to the real reason why Randy Johnson had to be traded: on a team like the Yankees that is trying to meld lots of talent (and the egos that comes with it), an introverted clubhouse personality like RJs just wasn’t cutting it. You never got the sense that any other player particularly liked playing with him nor did he care about who he played with. It has been chronicled that he stared down Johnny Damon after Damon made an attempt to rally the team in the locker room. Johnson needs to go somewhere where he can simply worry about himself and his own personal quest towards 300 wins. I think that it’s best summed up: Yankee players want to beat Randy Johnson and our fans want to boo him. It’s how it’s meant to be.
Immediately after the Johnson trade was announced, the question became how will the Yankees replace him? First the rumor was they were freeing up money for Zito (and this perhaps caused the Giants to panic and give him $126 million). Cashman wouldn’t have gone after Zito at that price even if we had zero starters signed. Now focus has turned towards Roger Clemens. Clemens might just end up back in pinstripes. But really that has nothing to do with why Randy Johnson was traded. You ask how do you replace Randy Johnson? Well looking at his numbers, you go out and find a league average pitcher. Will that be Igawa? Pavano? Who knows. But getting some more young talent, shedding 14 million in payroll, and improving the clubhouse makes this deal an easy decision for the Yanks. For the Diamondbacks? Sure it seems crazy… but then again, we saw what Weaver and Suppan did in the NL.