Saturday, December 27, 2008

Giants Sign Big Unit to One-Year Deal

Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants signed pitcher Randy Johnson to a one-year deal worth $8 million. He could earn up to $13 million through bonuses and incentives.

Johnson (a.k.a. The Big Unit) has pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks the last two seasons. He was injured for most of 2007 when the D'Backs won the NL West. Johnson won 11 games this season for a D'Back team that got off to a great start but faded fast and couldn't overcome the juggernaut that was Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Johnson is 45 years old but isn't the oldest player in MLB. That distinction belongs to Jamie Moyer who is 46 and earned a World Series ring with the Phillies and has just signed a two-year contract extension.

The Big Unit has won 5 Cy Young Awards (one in the AL with the Mariners in 1995 and four in the NL with the D'Backs from 1999 through 2002.) He earned one World Series ring with the D'Backs in 2001.

Entering the 2009 season, Johnson needs only five wins to reach 300. Should he reach that mark he will be the last to do it. With pitchers on pitch counts, complete games a thing of the past and starting pitchers at the mercy of the bullpen Johnson is the last of the old breed.

Johnson also needs 211 strikeouts to reach 5,000 for his career. It is a remarkable achievement but it still leaves him well behind Nolan Ryan who struck out 5714 batters in his storied career.

Needless to say, the Giants made a smart move. You now have a starting rotation consisting of 2008 NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, former Cy Young winners Barry Zito and the Big Unit plus two very promising pitchers in Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez. Johnson's presence benefits all four guys. Lincecum now has someone he can measure up against other than himself, Cain and Sanchez can learn from one of the very best and Zito can breathe a sigh of relief. Zito is in the third year of a 7-year, $126 million contract. He has struggled mightily although he did pitch better in the second half of 2008. The meteoric success of Lincecum plus the addition of the Big Unit take some of the burden off Zito's right shoulder. Zito should have his best season in a Giants uniform in 2009 as should a lot of Giants.

What are you saying Aaron? World Series Champions? Oh, they might be. But find out for sure when I make my MLB predictions this spring.

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