M's Talk Trade About Johnson -- Phillies Still Show Interest In Pitcher

Although the Mariners signed reliever Mike Schooler yesterday, the Seattle pitcher most of the talk seems to be about is Randy Johnson.

Trade talk, that is. Such talk has revolved around Johnson for months and won't go away. Apparently, there is reason.

Both the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies have been after Johnson, named by Mariners Manager Lou Piniella as his Opening Day starter, and Seattle has been listening.

"Nothing is new and nothing is close," said Mariners General Manager Woody Woodward. "And I'm not about to say we want to give up a pitcher with Randy's ability, but I will say we have been talking trade."

Upset about his father's death at Christmas, Johnson recently accused the Mariners of being "insensitive" during an interview with KING-TV and hinted that he may welcome a trade. He also reportedly is upset at not being offered a multiyear contract and instead faces salary arbitration with the club. Johnson, who had a 12-14 record last season while making $1.3925 million, seeks $3.2 million and Seattle offers $2.05 million.

Schooler avoided arbitration by signing for $800,000 plus incentives. He saved 13 games for $800,000 last year and sought $1.1 million in arbitration while the Mariners offered $720,000.

Money could be a factor in Johnson's status should he win his demand for $3.2 million.

Both the Reds and Phillies came hard after Johnson at the winter meetings in early December. But the pursuit cooled.

"There's nothing going on right now," Woodward said. "I called the Reds about a trade involving another of our players and they mentioned Randy. But the talk went nowhere and we have not reopened discussions."

The Phillies, who wanted Johnson as long ago as last season, called recently. "Talk of Philadelphia's interest is closer to being true," Woodward said. "But, again, nothing is going on."

Cincinnati offered young pitchers for Johnson, such as Bobby Ayala, Larry Luebbers and Tim Pugh, all right-handers. Ayala was 12-6 at Class AAA Chattanooga and 2-1 in five starts with the Reds. Luebbers was 7-0 at Class A Cedar Rapids and 6-5 in 14 starts with Chattanooga. Pugh was 12-9 with Class AA Nashville and 4-2 in seven starts with the Reds.

Philadelphia offered young players such as right-handers Brad Brink, Steve Paris and Mike Williams, first baseman Ricky Jordan and outfielder Wes Chamberlain. Brink was 8-2 at Class AAA Scranton and 0-4 in eight games with the Phillies. Paris was 5-7 at Class AA Reading and 3-3 at Scranton. Williams was 9-1 with Scranton and 1-1 with the Phillies. Jordan batted .304 with only four homers. Chamberlain has more power, nine homers, but hit only .258.

"There was a time last season when I thought something had a chance to be done," General Manager Lee Thomas said. "But I don't think we're in the hunt anymore."