Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Hill, MacDonald, Johnson Deal

By now you've heard that on Tuesday the Blue Jays traded second baseman Aaron Hill, and fan favorite John McDonald to Arizona in exchange for second basemen Kelly Johnson. 

Despite having their starting short stop and first basemen sidelined due to injury, and being on a six game losing streak before the trade (snapped with a 2-0 victory over Washington Tuesday night) The Diamondbacks have found themselves with a two game lead over divisional rival and the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. 

Even though they lead the division, Arizona felt they needed to do something to try and spark their offense after batting just .167 and scoring only 10 runs in their previous seven games.  They're hoping the change of scenery will help Aaron Hill find his lost bat, and that MacDonald will provide solid defense to help out Willie Bloomquist at shortstop.

Both Hill and McDonald voiced that they were happy to be going to a team with a chance to play ball in October, and that they were open to the prospect of coming back to Toronto at seasons end.  A little odd, but understandable. 

However, I'm not telling you anything you haven't already heard. 

What surprises me about this trade, has been the reaction both from some media members, and fan reaction that I have read on Twitter.  A lot of people are of the opinion that this was a move to have Kelly Johnson come in and play for a month, and then collect a higher draft pick than what you would have gotten from Aaron Hill if he were to have walked at seasons end.  I do not understand why this is the general consensus.

I realize that Alex Anthopoulos has said that the deal was orchestrated from Arizona's end, and not his own.  (and we all know dear Alex would never mislead us when it comes to player acquisitions) But doesn't Johnson fit the type of player that Anthopoulos has been targeting?  No, he's not as young as a typical AA addition seems to be.  However he was a first round draft pick, and is on the right side of 30 with high upside in a down year. 

In 2007, his first full season with Atlanta, Johnson batted .276 with 16 HR and 26 2B.  In 2008 he had a slight power drop off to 12 HR, but increased his average to .287 and smacked 39 doubles.  His best all around season to date was 2010, his first in Arizona, when he hit .284 with 26 dingers and 36 2B. 

As I said, he is in a down year.  But in a down year he still has 18 HR to date, and is moving into a hitters park. 

I don't think that Johnson walking at the end of this season for a higher draft pick is Anthopoulos' primary goal here.  Is it possible?  Sure it is.  But we were going to need a second basemen next year with Aaron Hill's contract being up, and the free agent pool at second base is not deep.  Why not bring in Johnson for a five week audition?  Who knows, maybe we can sell him on playing in a city that free agents don't seem to be banging down the door to come and play in.

When asked by friends this year who was going to be playing second base in 2012, There were three names that I gave them.  I would tell them probably Aaron Hill, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a guy like Gordon Beckham or Kelly Johnson end up here.  They just seem like the types of guys that Alex is trying to build the team around:  Talented players in need of a change of scenery that can be brought in without selling the farm.

On the other side, I'm sad to see Hill and McDonald go.  It is nice to see them going to a contending team, but still tough to see two long serving and well liked Blue Jays leave town. 

I suspect that we haven't seen the last of John McDonald.  He'll be back.  Whether it's as a player or as a coach, I don't know.  But he'll be back.

By the way Jays fans, take a look at that Arizona Diamondbacks starting infield...  Four former Blue Jays.  Just sayin...

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