It certainly could be nothing, as George King reported yesterday that Johnson has not demanded a trade. Johnson’s agent denied any sort of trade request.
It seems that the basic premise is that the Yanks would move Johnson to a less stressful location for prospects to make room for Roger Clemens. Failing that, dealing him could open up a spot for Carl Pavano. Something tells me Brian Cashman wouldn’t trade Johnson anytime soon as no one knows if Clemens or Pavano are even viable options.
A more likely scenario, to me, is the Yanks considering trading Johnson once Philip Hughes forces their hand. There is no reason to rush the 20 year-old, and a half-season at Triple A wouldn’t hurt. But Hughes would not be overmatched in the Majors right now. There’s also a decent chance that Hughes will be needed as the Yanks’ fifth starter in the event of an injury to Johnson, Pettitte, or Mussina.
The Big Unit is owed $16MM in 2007 to finish his contract. I think a lot of NL teams would take the gamble with his age and back to see if he has one more run of excellence. While the numbers are slipping, Johnson’s peripheral stats and baserunners allowed were still excellent in 2006.