TORONTO - As post-trade press conferences go, it was the weirdest we have ever seen.
How many have we seen?
One hundred, 200?
There at the podium Monday afternoon was Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulous flanked by Aaron Hill and John McDonald.
Usually players don’t want to be within a tape-measure home run of the guy who uprooted his family.
The message was: Anthopoulos had shipped both to the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks for the final six weeks of the season with the chance for both to play in October.
And — wait for it — both could be back in Dunedin next February with the Jays next season.
So sayeth all three.
It was as if the Jays were announcing the two were headed to Disneyland for the remainder of the season, not to worry, they’ll be back.
Rogers Centre ushers and guards walked around with long faces — about fan fave McDonald being moved — and one woman was on the verge of tears when she heard the news. The twitter world was outraged.
McDonald was the apple of Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers’ eye after shortstop Steven Drew broke his ankle a month ago. Willie Bloomquist has been playing short, but Arizona’s defence has suffered when it comes double-switch time for manager Kirk Gibson.
The Jays and Arizona swapped underachieving former first rounders, Hill for Kelly Johnson.
All three players are free agents at the end of the season.
Johnson is not an upgrade defensively over Hill at second, but he’s said to be better than Hill at turning double plays. Hitting .209, Johnson has 23 doubles, five triples, 18 homers and 49 RBIs in 118 games, with a .699 OPS. A year ago the left-handed hitter batted .284 with 26 homers, 71 RBIs and .865 OPS in 154 games.
It’s not the first time that the Jays had expressed interest in Johnson.
What if Johnson, who has a career .780 OPS (four years with the Atlanta Braves, two with the Diamondbacks), plays like last year for the final six weeks: Do the Jays tie him up?
They have that choice now.
A year ago the Jays had two left-handed hitters in first baseman Lyle Overbay and DH Adam Lind. Now, John Farrell has a more balanced attack with outfielders Eric Thames and Colby Rasmus, plus Lind and Johnson.
We didn’t think that the Jays would pick up Hill’s options for 2012-13 at $8 million US per season, just as they declined to pick up three option years before opening day.
The Jays had plenty of prospects in their organization, but none at second base.
Since numbers for free agency are based over a two-year period, Johnson sure has the look of a type A or B free agent which means the Jays will receive a draft pick if they offer salary arbitration.
As a 10-and-5 player (more than 10 years experience, the last five with the same club) McDonald had to approve the deal. The popular infielder spoke to Anthopoulous about a month ago saying he would waive his no-trade clause, if a team with a team headed for the post-season needed middle infield help.
“In September (the Jays) will probably bring up Adeiny Hechavarria, if they give Yunel Escobar a day off, are they going to play Adeiny or me?” McDonald asked. “Alex could have released me when I was hitting .210.
“Instead, I’m headed to a team in first place, as players it’s the reason we get up every day ... to play for the World Series.”
What if Arizona wins the Series and they decide to bring everyone back?
“They won’t need me,” McDonald said. “Drew will be healthy by next spring, Bloomquist is doing a good job.”
McDonald was dealt by the Jays before ... on July 22, 2005 to the Detroit Tigers for cash.
At the end of the season he re-signed with the Jays.
We can see McDonald coming back in a back-up role next season.
No matter what was said Monday.
No matter all the warmth and fuzzies uttered.