The Arizona Diamondbacks' motivation for acquiring second baseman Aaron Hill and infielder John McDonald on Tuesday was fairly clear.
McDonald gives the D-Backs a shortstop to pair with Willie Bloomquist, a utility man was pressed into an everyday role after Stephen Drew suffered a season-ending broken ankle.
Hill, in the D-backs’ view, is a better contact hitter and defender than Kelly Johnson, the second baseman whom Arizona sent to the Blue Jays in the trade.
So, what were the Blue Jays thinking?
Well, they were not going to exercise their $8 million option on Hill, whose OPS was the second lowest in the American League. So, they figured they’d take a look at Johnson, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Johnson hit 18 home runs for the D-Backs, but also struck out 132 times in 430 at-bats and had the 15th lowest OPS in the NL. Then again, he had a big season in 2010, and the market for second basemen is expected to be quite thin.
If Johnson plays well, the Jays could offer him arbitration, though he already is earning $5.85 million and stands to make even more next season.
The Jays’ search for a second baseman would be over if Johnson accepted such an offer and returned on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal.
Johnson also could reject arbitration and depart as a free agent, netting the Jays at least one draft pick as compensation.
And if Johnson flops?
The Jays simply would decline to offer him arbitration and resume their search for a second baseman.
Nothing lost, nothing gained.
— Ken Rosenthal