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Big League Stew

Diamondbacks and Blue Jays swap struggling second basemen

Ian Casselberry
Big League Stew

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The Arizona Diamondbacks had to do something.

Losers of six straight heading into Tuesday night's game in Washington, the D-Backs are in danger of the same sort of horrible slump that swallowed up the San Diego Padres in last year's NL West race. Those Padres lost 10 in a row and eventually finished two games behind the San Francisco Giants for the division crown.

Things aren't that bad for Arizona just yet. But this losing streak has put the D-Backs in a similar position, clinging to a one-game lead over the Giants.

Looking to shake his team out of its malaise (and break whatever jinx certain baseball bloggers may have cast), general manager Kevin Towers made a bold move Tuesday afternoon. The D-Backs traded second baseman Kelly Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop John McDonald.

At first glance, this looks like a risky deal for Arizona. Johnson is the team's second-leading home run hitter with 18 roundtrippers. But he's only hitting .209 and his .287 on-base percentage is one of the lowest among regular players in baseball.

Yet Hill has an even lower OBP this season, at .270. Last year, he finished with an OBP of .271, so he could actually be getting worse. And according to Ultimate Zone Rating, he's worse defensively at second base than Johnson, too.

But Hill is two years removed from a 36-homer, 108-RBI, .829- OPS season. So maybe the D-Backs think he has a bit more upside, even though he and Johnson are the same age.

Or maybe they think the proverbial change of scenery will do Hill some good. {YSP:MORE}

Hill also has three club-option years remaining on his contract, while Johnson is eligible for free agency after this season. So perhaps some club control also makes Hill more appealing. But the options are worth a combined $26 million, so that wouldn't exactly help the D-Backs control costs.

While we're trying to figure out exactly what the D-Backs see in Hill, we shouldn't forget about McDonald also going to Arizona in the deal. While he probably won't supplant Willie Bloomquist as the D-Backs' starting shortstop, he gives the team some depth. Bloomquist has been fine on defense, but McDonald has been excellent in past seasons (though not this year, according to UZR), which could make him a valuable late-inning replacement.

What's in this for the Blue Jays? At the very least, they'll get a draft pick out of this. And as Eno Sarris points out on Fangraphs, Johnson could be a Type A free agent, depending on how he finishes the season. That would give the Jays a first-round pick, along with a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds. And they could also bring back Hill and McDonald as free agents, a possibility Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos did not rule out.

Did Toronto's Ninja GM just strike again with this deal?

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