Mariners Won’t Extend Johnson Deal
SEATTLE (AP) _ Seattle’s Big Unit may be going bye-bye.
The Seattle Mariners, calling it a bittersweet day, said they cannot offer Randy Johnson, the 1995 American League Cy Young Award winner, a new contract.
``Therefore, our general manager, Woody Woodward, is free to entertain trade offers for him,″ Mariner president Chuck Armstrong told The Seattle Times.
Woodward is in Arizona with several other Mariners officials for the annual meeting of baseball’s general managers. He said that while Johnson ``could be part of our pennant race next year _ I will certainly listen to trade talks. I want to compete for a championship, but I prefer not to lose a player next year.″
The Times said Mariners’ sources indicated Johnson’s Chicago-based agent, Barry Meister, might have sought a contract more lucrative than the four-year deal averaging $11.5 million signed by Greg Maddux with Atlanta.
Johnson was believed to be seeking $22 million to $24 million for a two-year extention, The Times said.
``To pay Randy, we’d have to have committed 20 to 25 percent of our team payroll annually to him. We couldn’t do that,″ The Times quoted one Mariner official as saying.
The bad news on Johnson followed Wednesday’s announcement that Mariner’s centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. had won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award.
``It was a very difficult decision,″ Armstrong said, ``but in view of what Randy wanted in the way of a extension, we just didn’t think it was a wise investment.″
Johnson, who has one year remaining on his contract, and one of his agents said it would be best for both sides to end their nine-year relationship as soon as possible.
``In light of the Mariners’ decision to not even offer a contract extension, the idea of Randy coming back for the last year of his contract seems to be an intolerable alternative for both parties,″ Meister told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
``They have stated publicly that Randy Johnson doesn’t figure in their plans beyond next season. We don’t have the right to demand a trade, but can you imagine your wife saying, `I want a divorce, but I want us to stay together until I find something better?′ ″
Johnson talked about his Mariners career in the past tense.
``This wasn’t my decision,″ he said. ``It was a decision made for me. I have a lot of good memories, and I’m sure my teammates and fans do as well.″
Johnson said he had been looking forward to throwing the first pitch in the Mariners’ new retractable-roof stadium, scheduled to open just south of the Kingdome in mid-1999.
``Now that won’t happen,″ Johnson said.
``It’s disappointing to know that I probably have thrown my last pitch for the Mariners.″
One of the most dominating pitchers this decade, Johnson has a 121-64 career record in Seattle, including 20-4 last season after coming back from back surgery.
Johnson led the league in strikeouts for four consecutive seasons in 1992-95. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 1995 and was runner-up to Jack McDowell in 1993 and Roger Clemens this year.