John McDonald Rumors

D’Backs Wanted Defense, Infield Depth

Talk of draft pick compensation, club options and future salaries is valid after any trade, including the one the Diamondbacks just made with the Blue Jays. But the D’Backs didn’t make this move with an eye on future seasons or drafts. 

Kelly Johnson

“This deal was really made with a focus on ‘how do we get better for the next five weeks and stay ahead of the Giants’,” GM Kevin Towers explained this evening on a conference call with reporters.

Ever since Stephen Drew’s season ended, the D’Backs have been short-handed up the middle. They wanted to rely on Willie Bloomquist less, so Towers and the Blue Jays discussed Aaron Hill, someone the D’Backs have been eyeing for a while. The second baseman isn’t having much of a season at the plate, but Towers says his power could return against National League pitching. 

“We’re hoping that a change of scenery can not only spark our club, but spark these two guys,” Towers said, referring to Hill and John McDonald

Even if Chase Field doesn’t coax extra base power out of Hill, who has a 36-homer season to his name, Towers won’t mind. The deal, which included the versatile McDonald, was about defense. Though Towers didn't express disappointment in Kelly Johnson’s defense, he did say he's looking forward to adding the pair of former Blue Jays to his infield.

Hill has two $8MM team options for 2012-13, yet they aren't a major consideration for the D'Backs at this point at this point. It was “doubtful” that Johnson (pictured) would have returned after 2012, according to Towers, so the D’Backs were willing to part with him for Hill, regardless of whether Hill returns to Arizona in 2012. 

That Hill and McDonald strike out less than Johnson (132 Ks this year) is a bonus for Towers, who has been looking to reduce Arizona’s strikeout totals since last year. Plus, they’re two “great guys” who drew personal praise from Diamondbacks people and others in baseball. 

For the two nice guys to finish first, the D’Backs will have to maintain their current one-game lead over the defending World Champion Giants. Arizona could even obtain more help this month, since Towers may not be done dealing yet. 

“We’ll keep working the phone lines until the end,” he said.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Darvish

The Blue Jays completed a trade with the Diamondbacks today, sending Aaron Hill and John McDonald to Arizona for Kelly Johnson. Here's the latest news from the AL East, starting with a note on today's trade…

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that Hill and McDonald cleared waivers earlier in the month (Twitter link). The deal started when Arizona GM Kevin Towers called about McDonald.
  • Anthopoulos says he acquired Johnson from the D'Backs to get an up-close look at him before deciding how aggressively to pursue him this offseason when he hits free agency, according to Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi.
  • Alex Speier of WEEI.com takes us inside Boston's front office in a must-read look at how the Red Sox approached the signing deadline. “Between 11:50 and 12 it was straight chaos,” one person told Speier. “Five people were on the phone at the same time with five different agents negotiating five different deals.”
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post explains that MLB teams, even rich ones like the Yankees, have to develop their own starting pitching, since the few elite starters who do reach free agency are prohibitively expensive.
  • The Yankees have scouted Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish heavily, according to Sherman. Darvish, 25, "is coming" to the Major Leagues this offseason, according to one of Sherman's sources.

Diamondbacks Acquire Hill, McDonald For Johnson

The Diamondbacks acquired second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop John McDonald from the Blue Jays for Kelly Johnson, tweets John Gambadoro Sports 620 KTAR.  Both teams confirmed the trade in a press release.

Johnson, a favorite of Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, has slumped to .209/.287/.412 in 481 plate appearances this year.  He has $1.16MM remaining on his contract and projects as a high Type B in the National League.  He's probably still at least a B in the AL, which has to be Toronto's motivation in acquiring the impending free agent.

Hill, 29, has been worse than Johnson at .225/.270/.313 in 429 plate appearances.  His $8MM club option is expected to be declined after the season, at which point he'd be a Type B free agent.  I'm not sure what Anthopoulos gets out of the swap.  Maybe he thinks Johnson will be a Type A and will decline arbitration, or maybe he's just more inclined to offer arbitration to Johnson than Hill.  Or, maybe he hopes to extend Johnson cheaply.  Hill has about $990K remaining on his contract.  McDonald, a defensive whiz, has about $300K remaining, so the money is pretty close.

From Arizona's point of view, McDonald can pitch in at shortstop with Willie Bloomquist, since Stephen Drew is out for the season.  As for liking Hill over Johnson, perhaps GM Kevin Towers feels a change of scenery will help, or he prefers Hill's defense.

The Diamondbacks and Blue Jays last matched up on a trade three years ago, when the Toronto acquired David Eckstein for Chad Beck.



Life After The Trade

We've seen a flurry of trades after months of anticipation. Now, players join new clubs in different cities.

Here’s an obscure baseball trivia question for you. What do John McDonald and Harry Chiti have in common? You’re forgiven if you didn’t know that both men were once traded for themselves. 

But before McDonald worked his way into baseball’s history books, he faced the reality of joining the Detroit Tigers. And back in 2005, playing baseball was the easy part.

“99% of the time it’s a place where it’s like ‘hey I’m at the ballpark, give me my glove, let’s take some grounders, take some [batting practice], even though I’m wearing a different uniform,” McDonald said. “But that other 1% is thinking ‘all right, how much of a burden did I just put on other people in my life?’”

At the time, McDonald’s family had lived in Toronto for about four months and was just becoming accustomed to the city. As soon as the Blue Jays traded McDonald, his wife had to pack the couple’s belongings in Toronto and drive them to Detroit so McDonald would have things to wear on an upcoming road trip. She then returned to Toronto to pick up more boxes and McDonald was playing baseball, so he couldn’t help out.

You might think that rumblings about potential trades made the process difficult for McDonald, but they were the least of his worries five years ago.

“There were no rumors then, I mean there was no website, like [MLB Trade Rumors], but there was a lot of times a guy had an idea,” he said. “I had no idea so the hardest part about it was for your families.”

The Tigers acquired McDonald, already an established big leaguer, before the 2005 trade deadline. Eventually, the Tigers sent none other than John McDonald to Toronto to complete the trade. Like Harry Chiti four decades before him, McDonald was traded for himself.

McDonald jokes that it’s not much better than being traded for a bag of balls, but notes that the Blue Jays definitely got a fair return. More often than not, though, veterans are traded for minor leaguers or major leaguers without much experience.

That’s what happened to Justin Masterson a year ago, when the Indians acquired him in the Victor Martinez deal. Unlike McDonald, Masterson was traded for a big-name player, and he says it’s kind of cool to be part of a trade involving a star.

“Yeah, it makes you feel better than being traded for someone you don’t even know,” Masterson said. “I think there’s something cool to it. Your first time traded is always an interesting experience.”

Interesting?

“Words can’t really describe it,” Masterson said. “There’s no way to tell someone who has never gone through it what it really feels like. There’s a lot of things in life that take place like that, that you can’t really put a word to describe exactly the way it feels.”

He can’t find the rights words to explain what it’s like to be dealt, but he’s sure of one thing. The Indians were welcoming, so joining the team wasn’t hard.

“These days, everyone knows someone,” Masterson said. “You know someone somewhere through some sort of connection, so it makes it a little easier to get connected.” 

Still, the adjustment process continues long after the rumors stop. But that doesn’t mean all players dislike the trade deadline drama. McDonald, for one, doesn't mind it.

“No, because it’s fun,” he said. “You don’t get to play [pro baseball] for very long. You need to embrace all parts of [being an MLB player].”


Boston’s Areas Of Need

Red Sox assistant GM Ben Cherington told Jim Bowden of Sirius XM Radio that Boston will consider improving its bullpen, adding a defense-first shortstop and finding outfield help this summer (Twitter link). Red Sox relievers have combined for a 4.18 ERA and a 1.85 K/BB ratio, so the 'pen has pitched respectably. Still, the team could use a top arm or two behind Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard.

Adam Everett, now a free agent, would likely be an option for any club looking to acquire a strong defensive shortstop. The Red Sox could also consider John McDonald, who backed up current Boston shortstop Marco Scutaro when both were with the Blue Jays last year.

Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeremy Hermida and J.D. Drew have all missed time with injuries this year, but replacements like Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald have filled in admirably. The Red Sox just called up Josh Reddick, but could look outside the organization for outfield help. David DeJesus seems like a fit, since the Red Sox would prefer to add a left-handed hitter.


Rosenthal On Yankees, Oswalt, White Sox, Beltre

The Yankees are not actively looking for a utility infielder, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal names Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald and Jayson Nix as options the Yanks could consider should they decide that they want more experience than Kevin Russo and Ramiro Pena can offer. Here are the rest of Rosenthal's rumors:

  • Adrian Beltre will almost certainly reject his player option after the season and re-enter free agency. He has been one of the game's best players this year, rating characteristically well on defense (according to UZR) and hitting .336/.371/.528.
  • The Mariners won't necessarily get a first round pick in next year's draft if they hold onto Cliff Lee. First of all, a losing team could sign Lee (the first 15 picks are protected). Secondly, a team could sign Lee and a free agent who ranks higher under the Elias system. That would mean the Mariners get a supplementary rounder and a second rounder.
  • If the Rangers are sold before the winter, they could be a potential landing spot for Carl Crawford, one executive suggested.
  • Rosenthal hears that Astros owner Drayton McLane is not against the idea of trading Roy Oswalt to Texas, though the Rangers' ability to take on payroll and the pitcher's no-trade clause could prevent a deal from going through.
  • The Marlins inquired on Matt Thornton back when the White Sox were sellers. Now, the White Sox would not consider dealing the left-hander.
  • If White Sox GM Kenny Williams becomes a buyer, he may pursue a left-handed bat.
  • The Mariners want major league or major league-ready hitters for Cliff Lee, but the Dodgers' best prospects are a few years away from the majors.
  • The Rockies are interested in Ty Wigginton, according to Rosenthal's colleague, Tracy Ringolsby.
  • The Rays will look for impact players at the trade deadline.

Blue Jays Still Looking For Shortstop

Despite agreeing to terms with John McDonald, the Toronto Blue Jays are still searching for a shortstop, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (via Twitter).

Bastian tweets that McDonald's role is "undefined" heading into next year, and that the Jays don't view him as their starter. The team will attempt to fill that role via free agency, and GM Alex Anthopoulos hopes to get something done soon.

Incumbent shortstop Marco Scutaro is perhaps the most attractive of the position's free agent class this offseason, but Bastian reports that talks with the infielder have come to a halt. It's still possible the Jays and Scutaro could agree on a one-year deal, but it doesn't look probable that the 34-year-old will be back in Toronto.

Considering they already have one defensive specialist in McDonald, it seems unlikely that the Jays would pursue a player like Adam Everett or Alex Gonzalez. Of the rest of the free agent shortstops, only Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera look like sure-thing, everyday options.


McDonald Re-Signs With Blue Jays

WEDNESDAY 4:01pm: ESPN's Buster Olney reports (via email) that McDonald's deal is worth a total of $3MM over two years.

TUESDAY 7:52pm: Fanhouse's Ed Price (via Twitter) has learned that Toronto is "expected" to bring back free agent infielder John McDonald to a deal worth around $1.5MM, in what would likely be a one-year contract.

McDonald has been a reserve with the Blue Jays since 2005, and has become a fan favorite in Toronto due to his often-spectacular defense at shortstop.  He just completed a two-year/$3.8MM deal with the club and his return would give the Jays a strong back-up glove at third base (where Edwin Encarncacion and his "E-5" nickname has the starting job) and may even be a candidate to get regular playing time at shortstop given Marco Scutaro's Type A free-agent status.  McDonald's .258/.271/.384 line last season represented career highs in slugging percentage and OPS, but obviously the Jays would be absorbing a blow to their lineup by giving McDonald regular at-bats.


Odds & Ends: Phillies, Nationals, Mariners

There's no such thing as an offseason- just different kinds of on-seasons.


Can The Blue Jays Re-Sign Scutaro & Barajas?

The Blue Jays would like to re-sign Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas and John McDonald, but retaining the free agents may not be realistic. GM Alex Anthopoulos told Shi Davidi of the Canadian Press that he's not necessarily bringing them back.

"As much as I like John McDonald, Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro, there might be alternatives that make this organization better and are the right alternatives for this team," Anthopoulos said.

Scutaro is one of the offseason's most appealing free agent shortstops. He hit .282/.379/.409 and was a solid defender, according to UZR/150, so he's in line for a raise from his 2009 salary of $1.1MM.

"We'd like to bring them back," Anthopoulos said, "(but) everything has to fit with respect to what the alternatives are and with respect to what their financial requirements are. I'm starting to get a pretty good handle on where their expectations are with respect to the market and what they feel their value might be."

Scutaro will be a Type A free agent, so the Blue Jays will obtain two top draft picks if he turns down an arbitration offer to sign elsewhere. Barajas will be a Type B free agent; the Jays won't necessarily offer him arbitration.

Davidi also reports that the Blue Jays won't bring Kevin Millar back for another season. The 38-year-old hit .223/.311/.363 in his lone season with the Jays.