Yet no team had raised more eyebrows at the meetings than Arizona. The Diamondbacks figured to be a nonplayer in the free-agent market because they carried $175 million in deferred-salary debt. The contracts they gave Glaus and Ortiz stunned officials in the commissioner's office. Said one source there, who noted that the players' association should be worried about the club's ability to meet its payroll, "They've been lying to us."
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks haven't ruled out trading their ace, lefthander Randy Johnson, to the Yankees or to another contender. Talks with New York broke off last month because of what the Yankees thought were unreasonable demands by Arizona. Johnson is due $17 million in 2005, the final year of his contract, and cannot be traded without his permission. (Johnson is also owed more than a whopping $60 million in deferred money.) Diamondbacks general partner Ken Kendrick said on Friday, "As of the moment Randy will be taking the mound for the Diamondbacks next spring." Asked if he knew whether Johnson wanted to remain in Arizona, Kendrick smiled and said, "Randy is an interesting guy. It depends on what moment you talk to him."
Like Johnson, Tim Hudson of the Oakland A's and A.J. Burnett of the Florida Marlins will be eligible for free agency after next season, and they too were the subject of trade talks at the meetings. After all, the price of retaining an ace is another bit of fallout from the inflationary market for second-tier pitchers. Says Boras, "If you can last long enough, it's a great place to get to: free agency as a pitcher."