The Toronto Blue Jays have acquired second baseman Kelly Johnson from the Arizona Diamondbacks for second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop John McDonald, according to John Gambadoro of Sports 620 KTAR. The Blue Jays are holding a press conference at 3:30 PM, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
Johnson, 29, has been Arizona's second baseman since the beginning of the 2010 season. After being non-tendered by the Braves before the 2010 season, the Diamondbacks snapped him up on a cheap one-year deal in the hopes of getting a resurgent season from Johnson. He certainly did that, hitting 26 homers with a strong OBP and quality defense at second base, pushing his WAR near 6 for the season. He's regressed a good deal this year- taking less pitches, striking out more often, getting less luck on balls in play- but he's still a unique power threat for a middle infielder.
Hill, also 29, was once viewed as a cornerstone of the Blue Jays franchise before running into some serious struggles over the past two seasons. Never a good on-base guy, Hill has always provided his value through good contact skills and impressive power, but over time those two skills have essentially deteriorated. Now, he's a decent-fielding second baseman that puts the ball in play but rarely hits it hard; after hitting 62 total homers in 2009-2010, he's hit only six homers this season, and he's developed an awful tendency to pop the ball up these days.
The third piece in the deal, McDonald, presumably gives the Diamondbacks some insurance given their issues at shortstop. After losing Stephen Drew to injury, the Diamondbacks have been working with the likes of Willie Bloomquist and Cody Ransom at shortstop, so it's not surprising that they wanted to acquire the slick-fielding McDonald. Even if McDonald isn't much of a hitter, having a steady, high-quality glove option at shortstop should be pretty helpful for them down the stretch.
This is a really fascinating deal from both perspectives, though. Johnson is the best player in this deal and he's a free agent at the end of the season, but oddly enough, he's being traded from the contender to the non-contender. From Toronto's perspective, you have to assume that they had no interest in exercising Hill's 2012-2014 club options.
It remains to be seen whether they view Johnson as a potential solution at second base for 2012 or a potential opportunity to land draft picks, but you can understand why they were willing to deal Hill and McDonald given that neither was likely to stick around for the long run. It's worth noting that Hill is a Type B free agent after the season as well, though, so it's unlikely that draft pick compensation is the motivating factor here. You presumably have to believe that Anthopolous is hoping to keep Johnson around at a reasonable rate long-term.
As for Arizona, their motives seem less clear. Obviously McDonald gives them some additional depth at shortstop and Hill can simply replace Johnson at second base, but does this really improve the 2011 team once you consider that they're likely downgrading at the keystone? That makes you wonder if they made this move with the intention of exercising Hill's options for 2012, 2013 and 2014, which are worth a combined $26 million. I doubt it, though, given that Hill almost assuredly wouldn't come close to getting that kind of deal on the open market. That makes me wonder exactly why the Diamondbacks are making this deal, but presumably we'll get some more details over the next few days and weeks.