The Diamondbacks appear close to welcoming Randy Johnson home. Johnson, who won four Cy Young awards during his previous six-year stay in Arizona, could join the D-Backs as early as this weekend in a trade that would send reliever Luis Vizcaino and at least one young starting pitcher to the New York Yankees, a major league source with direct knowledge of the negotiations said Wednesday.
The Yankees and D-Backs were still discussing the minor league pitchers Wednesday evening, with the same names circulating as possibilities — Dustin Nippert, Micah Owings and Ross Ohlendorf.
The Yankees could get two of those pitchers, depending on what portion of Johnson’s $16 million contract they would cover in 2007, sources said.
When the D-Backs traded Johnson to the Yankees in 2005, the Yanks agreed to pick up $9 million of Johnson’s scheduled $16 million salary from the final year of his contract in Arizona.
Johnson would join a D-Backs rotation with Brandon Webb, Livan Hernandez and newcomer Doug Davis that could rank among the best in the NL West.
Los Angeles signed Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf this winter to go with Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley, and San Diego has a front four that includes Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Clay Hensley and newcomer Greg Maddux.
The Giants signed Barry Zito to add to Matt Cain, Noah Lowry and Matt Morris.
While the trade could take three or four days to finalize, another step appeared to have been cleared when Johnson informally agreed to add another year to his contract, according to sources cited by Newsday.
The D-Backs need a two-year deal to make their budget work and have about $10 million to spend in 2007.
Impetus remains on all sides to make it work. The deal would provide the D-Backs a 34-game winner over the last two seasons and give Johnson a desired return to his Valley home, where he also would be nearer his mother in northern California.
Johnson’s departure would free up money that the Yankees could use to pursue free agent Roger Clemens, an apparent target.
After the players are agreed upon, the D-Backs would seek a negotiating window with Johnson, who has a full no-trade clause, to discuss contract terms.
“When the window opens, that’s a key time,” a source said.
The final step would be a physical evaluation. Johnson underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back in October, and the Yankees have said they are unsure if he will be ready for the start of the regular season.
While the medical seems straightforward enough, the D-Backs had two trades fall through last season because of medical red flags.