A sentence in a recent Tom Verducci mailbag set a few Yankees a-twitter this week. “Remember,” wrote Verducci, “the Yankees preferred Ross Ohlendorf over Owings in the Big Unit trade, otherwise he’d be their No. 3 starter and DH these days!”
Now while Ross Ohlendorf clearly has a bright future as a Major League reliever ahead of him — his stuff and his recent 6 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K line are testaments to that — Micah Owings is a desirable starter with excellent stuff. Yankee fans would have every right to be a little dismayed if the team truly favored Ohlendorf over Owings. But the problem with Verducci’s claim is that it’s simply not true.
A few weeks earlier, Verducci’s Sports Illustrated colleague and fellow columnist Jon Heyman wrote about Micah Owings’ role in the Randy Johnson trade talk as well. His take, however, was completely different from that of Verducci’s: “The Yankees tried hard for Owings in Randy Johnson trade talks after the 2006 season, even offering to send Arizona a few million more if they’d include him. No go.”
What Heyman wrote jibes with press reports from the time of the trade in December 2006 and January 2007. At the time, New York reporters offered up differing takes. Some said that the Yankees maybe could have landed Owings if they were prepared to shell out more money for the D-Backs and accept fewer players in return. Others said that Owings was considered to be an “untouchable” in Arizona’s farm system.
While Verducci’s analysis seems off the mark, what Heyman offers seems most realistic. The Yanks wanted Owings as any team would, and the Diamondbacks opted to hold on to their prized prospect. With Ohlendorf on the team, a compensation pick from Vizcaino on the way and the Big Unit’s health issues lately, I’d say the Yankees did just fine for themselves in that trade.