Yankees complete five-player Unit deal
Johnson heads back to desert; Bombers acquire four players
NEW YORK -- The Yankees' Randy Johnson era may have come to a close on Tuesday, but general manager Brian Cashman sees a new shift underway.
With the completion of a five-player trade that returned the 43-year-old Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cashman believes he is continuing to follow an offseason plan of importing younger and more athletic players, without sacrificing the organization's efforts for 2007.
"I've stated on many occasions how I wanted to reduce payroll, improve our talent base at the Minor League level and improve our chances of trying to be the best we possibly can be," Cashman said.
"I understand that by making a move here with Randy Johnson, I do put the [pitching] rotation at risk. To take a half-step back, maybe we'll take two steps forward with the greater inventory we have to turn to."
In exchange for Johnson and $2 million in cash considerations, the Yankees acquired reliable reliever Luis Vizcaino plus three Minor Leaguers: pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, and infielder Alberto Gonzalez.
Vizcaino and Jackson were added to the Yankees' 40-man roster Tuesday following the trade, although only the 32-year-old Vizcaino -- a right-hander who appeared in a team-high 70 games for Arizona in 2006 -- is likely to be on the Yankees' Opening Day roster.
Cashman said that Vizcaino, who was 4-6 with a 3.58 ERA last year for Arizona, could slot anywhere from the sixth to the eighth inning in the Yankees bullpen -- a question to be answered by manager Joe Torre and his coaching staff in Spring Training.
Not up for debate, however, is Vizcaino's durability. Over the last five seasons, Vizcaino has pitched in 359 games with the Brewers, White Sox and D-backs, the fifth-most among all Major League pitchers during that span.
"His nickname is 'Daily' because he constantly takes the ball daily, which I think fits our bullpen perfectly," Cashman said.
The other three players acquired in the trade are projected to begin the season in the Minor Leagues, though they could see the Bronx at some point in 2007.
Gonzalez, a 23-year-old infielder from Venezuela, has been reputed as an excellent defensive infielder with improving bat control. He batted .290 with six home runs and 50 RBIs in 129 games for Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League last season before a brief promotion to Triple-A Tucson.
The Yankees also acquired a pair of 24-year-old right-handers in Jackson and Ohlendorf, the latter of whom had been thought to be in consideration for Arizona's starting rotation.
A product of Princeton University, Ohlendorf was 10-7 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts at Double-A, pitching 177 2/3 innings before moving up to Triple-A for one start. Jackson was 8-11 with a 2.65 ERA in 24 starts for Tennessee.
"All of them are knocking on the door," Cashman said. "We anticipate the three prospects coming into big-league camp and we'll slot them accordingly, Double-A and up, and let them compete. We're excited about the potential of these guys."
The announcement completed a lengthy negotiation process with the D-backs, following the agreement of the trade's structure last Thursday. In exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, Johnson received a contract extension for 2008 from Arizona and will earn a reported $26 million over the remainder of his deal.
Cashman said that Johnson did not request a trade from the Yankees, but in a telephone conversation, the left-hander had expressed a desire to pitch closer to his Phoenix-area home if a situation presented itself.
Calling the hurler to express the organization's condolences regarding the passing of Johnson's older brother, Greg, Cashman said that Johnson spoke at length about the importance of family at this stage in his career.
"It was toward the end of that conversation that he opened up even more," Cashman said. "[Johnson said that] if there was an opportunity that made sense from the Yankees' point of view that got him to be closer to home, to not necessarily be troubled by that no-trade clause that he has."
In two seasons with the Yankees, Johnson won 34 games and pitched 225 2/3 and 205 innings, respectively, while compiling a 4.36 ERA and striking out 383 batters.
Though he worked with untold amounts of back pain for much of his tenure -- the effect of a herniated disc that finally required a surgical procedure in October -- he was a reliable piece of the Yankees' rotation every five days, and a factor the organization will need to replace in the very near future.
Cashman said that the Yankees will look to some of their younger pitchers to meet that need. Aside from Ohlendorf and Jackson, the farm system has prospered with the development and addition of prospects like Philip Hughes, Jeff Karstens and Humberto Sanchez, among others.
"I'm hoping some people will step up and accept that challenge," Cashman said. "You'd been hearing people for years saying that [Minor Leaguers] don't have a chance in this organization. One thing I'm proud about is that I don't hear that much anymore. I think our kids know they have a chance."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.