Big Unit on the block; D-backs in the mix

Posted: December 26, 2006

Randy Johnson could be leaving the New York Yankees after just two seasons.

The Yankees have started trade talks with several teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, although it is too early to tell whether the discussions will lead to a deal.

Talks were confirmed yesterday by a baseball official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are in the preliminary stage.

Alan Nero, one of Johnson's agents, said yesterday he was informed of trade talks by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

"I just had one conversation with Brian, and that's it. As far we know, there's nothing going on significant enough for us to become a part of it," Nero said. "I think Brian is just doing his job."

Johnson has a no-trade clause, meaning the 10-time All-Star must approve any deal. Nero said it was too early to say whether Arizona would be the "Big Unit's" first choice if the Yankees do decide to trade the 43-year-old lefthander.

"We haven't discussed it, to be honest," Nero said. "This idea that Randy doesn't want to come back, that's not exactly true. I'm not aware of anything coming from our side that would force this. Whatever comes down, comes down, but it's not because Randy has demanded it or because we're participating in the process."

Cashman and Diamondbacks general partner Jeff Moorad did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

A five-time Cy Young Award winner, Johnson has been a disappointment with the Yankees despite a 34-19 regular-season record. He has a 4.37 ERA with New York - including 5.00 last season - and he is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three postseason appearances, struggling with his arm angle and a slider that often has lacked bite.

He has been grumpy for long stretches, especially when his back bothered him last season. He had surgery Oct. 26 to repair a herniated disc in his back - he had a similar operation in 1996 - and the Yankees said he might be behind other pitchers when spring training starts in mid-February.

Johnson is owed $16 million next year, the final season of his contract, with $1.5 million deferred without interest and payable through 2010.

He pitched for Arizona from 1999 to 2004, winning the NL Cy Young Award in his first four seasons. He was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, coming out of the bullpen to beat the Yankees in Game 7, and lives in the Phoenix area.

Noteworthy

* Righthander Jeff Suppan, the NL Championship Series MVP with St. Louis, reached a preliminary agreement Sunday on a $42 million, 4-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Suppan must pass a physical for the deal to be finalized, the Brewers said in a rare Christmas Eve announcement. His contract includes a team option for 2011 with a $2 million buyout.

"He gives us a big-game pitcher. He's shown that last year," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said.

Suppan, 31, went 12-7 with a 4.12 ERA this year - including a 6-2 mark with a 2.39 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break. He was 1-1 in four postseason starts, including a win in Game 3 and seven solid innings in Game 7 of the NLCS against the New York Mets. He is 44-26 with a 3.95 ERA over the last three regular seasons, tied for ninth in the major leagues in wins.

Suppan met Tuesday with Brewers officials, and the team made an offer the following day, when Suppan met with New York Mets executives. His agent, Scott Leventhal, negotiated through the weekend with Melvin.

Suppan has pitched for Boston, Arizona, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. He has a career record of 106-101 with a 4.60 ERA.

In the NLCS, Suppan pitched eight shutout innings for the win in Game 3, then allowed one run in seven innings in Game 7, which the Cards went on to win, 3-1. *

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