Tuesday, August 23, 2011

AA Gets His Man: Kelly Johnson Traded to the Blue Jays


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Images
I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who has received absolutely everything they've asked for; first it was getting rid of Vernon Wells contract, next it was acquiring Colby Rasmus, and now the final item on the wish list has been crossed off.

Seems like Santa AA has been hard at work these past few weeks, as he finally got the man he was rumoured to be after for so many years; Kelly Johnson from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I’ll address the Aaron Hill and John McDonald aspect of this trade in greater deal tomorrow, but at the onset I really like this deal for the Blue Jays. Hill and Johnny Mac get a chance to play in the playoffs, and the Blue Jays receive a great second baseman in return.

It might seem counterproductive to trade one impending free agent second baseman or another, but I imagine Alex Anthopoulos is hard at work to sign Kelly Johnson to some sort of contract extension.

The Blue Jays were all but certain to decline Hill’s options anyway, so this at least buys the club a little bit of time to figure out what to do at second base. Perhaps they fast track Adeiny Hechevarria to the majors, or maybe they hang onto Johnson for a couple years until Hech is ready.

In Kelly Johnson, the Blue Jays receive a bit of a defensive upgrade, a guy who can at least draw the occasional walk (career .342 OBP), and somebody who likes to strike out a lot (639 career SO’s).

Johnson is having an off year, but that could play in favour of the Blue Jays when it comes to signing him to a contract extension. A team-friendly contract of two years at $5-6 million per with an option at seems fairly reasonable … something that was far more attractive than Aaron Hill’s options.

Kelly Johnson has been on Alex Anthopoulos’ radar for quite some time, and by acquiring him now, it allows the Blue Jays to gain an advantage in negotiations rather than overpaying in free agency.

Worst case scenario, the Blue Jays offer Johnson arbitration and walks away, which nets the Blue Jays net a Type B pick … so it’s not all bad. But I’m confident something will get done by season’s end or shortly thereafter to lock up Kelly Johnson for at least 2012.

Just like his counterpart Aaron Hill, Kelly Johnson looks to be a good candidate for this "change of scenery trade". Both have excellent seasons under their belt, but the future of Hill and Johnson appear to be a bit of a question mark. Overall, I think the upside on Kelly Johnson far outweighs the upside on Aaron Hill.

One could argue Johnson comes with less risk as his subpar outlier years (2009 and 2011) are less concerning than Aaron Hill's (2010 and 2011). The prospect of having a second baseman that can hit for average intrigues me more than having a power-hitting player at the same position.

Johnson has shown flashes of power, and it would be great if he could kindle that power stroke, but I'm more concerned with Johnson getting on base ... something that Aaron Hill struggled with, even during his most productive season with the Blue Jays.

Ideally, I'd like to see the Blue Jays lock up Kelly Johnson to a two-year contract with an option, but like I said earlier ... even if he declines arbitration and hits the free agent market, the Blue Jays receive compensation.

But knowing how hard Alex Anthopoulos has pursued Kelly Johnson these past few years, I don't think he's going to let him get away that easily.

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