BALTIMORE, Dec. 16 -- If pitching is baseball's most cherished commodity, then Thursday's flurry of activity would have made any broker sweat. First Pedro Martinez was introduced for the first time as a member of the New York Mets at a news conference at Shea Stadium. Several hours later ace Tim Hudson was dealt by the Oakland Athletics to the Atlanta Braves for three players. But neither of the moves compared to the blockbuster trade the New York Yankees are on the verge of completing. After several months of negotiations, according to Newsday, the Yankees late on Thursday night agreed in principle to acquire Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson, undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.
In order to get Johnson, 41, the Yankees reportedly would send Javier Vazquez and prospects Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles then would send Shawn Green, Brad Penny, Yhency Brazoban and prospect Brandon Weeden to the Diamondbacks. Johnson and Green both have no-trade clauses, but neither is expected to object to the trade.
Johnson, a five-time Cy Young winner, four-time ERA leader and 10-time all-star, would give the Yankees perhaps the best rotation in baseball. The Yankees already have Mike Mussina and added Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright this offseason.
The Seattle Mariners, meantime, continued to be the most aggressive team in free agency this offseason, reportedly signing third baseman Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $64 million contract on Thursday, a day after announcing the signing of Richie Sexson. The Mariners are making the same offseason offensive push the Baltimore Orioles made last year when they signed Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro.
The Orioles had wanted to make a similar push this offseason for pitching. But their pursuit of Pavano and Hudson proved fruitless, and their hopes for acquiring Florida pitcher A.J. Burnett also may be dashed. One source confirmed the Marlins would not trade Burnett unless they could acquire Hudson. Baltimore also has stalled in talks for first baseman Carlos Delgado. The two sides are not anywhere near a deal and the New York Mets now appear to be the most aggressive bidder for Delgado.
"Patience is a virtue when you're in negotiations," Orioles Executive Vice President Jim Beattie said.
On Thursday, indications were that Baltimore preferred Burnett to Hudson. Burnett's wife is from the Baltimore area, and through his agent, Burnett had said he was willing to sign an extension with the Orioles if a trade was made.
Beattie said he knew the benefits of close ties to an area.
"It would have helped out in two instances already," Beattie said.
Pavano signed a deal with the New York Yankees, who play near his home in Connecticut. Sexson, a native of Washington state, preferred to play for the Mariners.
The Boston Red Sox, who lost Martinez, and the Yankees, always angling for any top player, made a heavy push for Hudson on Wednesday, but couldn't put together a package of players that satisfied Oakland. Instead, Hudson was sent to the Braves for pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer, and outfielder Charles Thomas.
The Braves' deal for Hudson, who has a career record of 92-39 with an ERA of 3.30 and is just 29, was a perfect countermove to the division rival Mets' signing of Martinez, who took several jabs at the Red Sox at his news conference.
"There was no need for Boston to let anybody get in between us," Martinez said. "There was plenty of time to become a computer geek again, like some of those guys that they have there. There was no need to let anybody get near me for such a long time, why wait? I was healthy. They got my results every day. They saw me pitch, they saw me do my thing, they saw me work. They saw my dedication. I think I earned my money in the seven years I was in Boston."
During the winter meetings, the Orioles, after losing out on Pavano, said they were no longer interested in the available crop of free agent pitchers and would happily enter the season with their string of young hurlers. Beattie reiterated that point on Thursday.
"We're not taking second- or third-best to fill what is a perceived need when we have young players that could play better," Beattie said.
If the Orioles fail to land Delgado, they might turn to Magglio Ordoñez. Beattie said he was going to attempt to contact agent Scott Boras on Thursday to talk about some of his players, who include J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe.
Another option would be to sign catcher A.J. Pierzynski, 27, who was released this week by San Francisco and cleared waivers on Thursday. Pierzynski, who hit .272 with 11 home runs and 77 RBI, would share catching duties with Lopez, who also can play first base.