Johnson files, unlikely to return in '09
His agents, D-backs unable to reach agreement on new deal
PHOENIX -- It looks like Randy Johnson will not pitch for the D-backs in 2009.
Johnson and the D-backs reached an impasse in negotiations on a new contract, and the left-hander filed for free agency on Thursday, the final day that he could do so.
"Randy instructed us not to file for free agency until we made every effort to reach an agreement," a statement by Johnson's agents Barry Meister and Alan Nero said.
D-backs GM Josh Byrnes confirmed that, and did not close the door on an agreement being reached in the future, but did acknowledge that, "Something would have to fundamentally change in our position or their position or both in order for us to close the gap. I think their effort has been very sincere, as has ours."
"I'm very disappointed," Johnson told MLB.com. "I recognize the economic problems and the situation the Diamondbacks are in and that was one of the reasons I was willing to come back for less. I was willing to take a 50 percent pay cut to come back here. To not be able to come back for another year at the price I was willing to come back for is disappointing."
Johnson, in other words, was not inclined to commit to a deal that would pay something in the ballpark of $3 million. That figure is based on unconfirmed reports; no specific amount has been disclosed on the record by either camp involved in the discussions.
Meister and Nero traveled to Phoenix for face-to-face talks with Byrnes and CEO Jeff Moorad on Monday.
"The Diamondbacks have a budget based on their club's financial situation and obviously viewed Randy's contract in that context," the statement said. "Randy considered every reasonable compromise, including offering to take a 50 percent pay cut, all to remain a Diamondback. However, the economic situation did not lend itself to an agreement.
"Consequently, Randy is forced to file for free agency and consider all opportunities to further his career. He hopes to find a team where he can continue to pitch at a high level and contribute to another world championship."
Finances forced the D-backs to cut 31 front office employees last week, and they are not believed to have a lot to spend on free agents this year.
"Probably more economics," Byrnes said when asked if it was more about economics than a disagreement on what Johnson's value was. "I think the spirit of conversation, and I give Randy and Barry and Alan a lot credit, I think we were seeing a lot of things the same way, we just couldn't get the numbers to where they worked out for both sides."
If Johnson does indeed sign elsewhere, it will certainly leave a hole in Arizona's starting rotation.
"Assuming we don't bring Randy back, we've got Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Doug Davis, Max Scherzer, Yusmeiro Petit and others," Byrnes said, "which is a good group and there's a chance we may try to find another person to add to our depth. It's the middle of November, so there might be an opportunity to bring in another starter and create some competition."
Johnson pitched for the D-backs from 1999-2004 before being dealt to the Yankees. He pitched in New York for two seasons before requesting a trade to be closer to his family in the Phoenix area.
"Randy and his family live in Arizona and he will always be a Diamondback at heart," the statement said. "Most of all, Randy will miss the overwhelming support the fans have shown him throughout the years. He wishes the Diamondbacks great success in 2009 and beyond."
Many of Johnson's career highlights happened while wearing an Arizona uniform. He was instrumental in the D-backs' World Series title in 2001, as he and Curt Schilling were named co-MVPs of the Series. Johnson won two games as a starter and got the win in relief in Game 7, one day after winning Game 6.
Johnson, who is second all-time in strikeouts with 4,789, tossed a perfect game on May 18, 2004, for the D-backs in Atlanta. While with the D-backs, he won four straight NL Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.