SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Diamondbacks traded veteran infielder John McDonald to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
A clearly emotional McDonald was informed of the trade Wednesday morning and cleared out his locker at Salt River Fields before saying goodbyes to teammates and staff.
“I’ve had a great time here with this organization, these teammates,” McDonald said Wednesday. “It’s been awesome, but it’s always very difficult to leave guys you enjoy playing with.”
McDonald, 38, came to the D-backs in an August 2011 trade that also brought back second baseman Aaron Hill and sent Kelly Johnson to the Blue Jays. McDonald was part of the 2011 D-backs team that won the NL West before falling to the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the playoffs.
Reflecting on his time with the D-backs Wednesday morning, McDonald went immediately to the 2011 playoff run, the first and only of McDonald’s 14-year career.
“The fact that this organization gave me an opportunity to come over and be part of that pennant race was something I’ll never forget,” McDonald said. “The appreciation I have for that experience and perspective that I’ve gained on baseball has been tremendous.”
The D-backs signed McDonald to a two-year contract in November 2011. A career .239 hitter, McDonald batted .230 in 89 games with the D-backs, compiling 24 RBI, six home runs and a .278 on-base percentage.
McDonald was a versatile, steady backup infielder whose work ethic and clubhouse presence were valued by the D-backs. He committed just one error last year while playing 54 games at shortstop, five at third base and four at second base. Advanced fielding metrics graded him as posting 1.2 defensive wins above replacement, one of the best marks on the roster.
McDonald was also highly popular among teammates, who referred to him almost exclusively as “Johnny Mac.” McDonald was especially closer to Hill, who he’s played with for eight seasons.
“Him and I already talked about it today,” McDonald said. “This is our ninth spring training together, so we’ve got to know each other really well, plus we always take ground balls together. We’re around each other more than we are just at the ballpark. It’s definitely sad to leave any of your close friends, but him in particular.”
McDonald expressed excitement at joining the Pirates, a team that has shown the last two seasons it’s on the verge of breaking through and ending a 20-year playoff drought.
“It’s a new opportunity with a team that’s on the cusp of doing great things,” McDonald said. “(It’s exciting) to be able to go and do what I can to be a part of that and help that organization get to where it wants to go.”
The Pirates infield depth took a hit when Chase d’Arnaud suffered a partially torn thumb ligament that required surgery. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison and Ivan DeJesus are competing for backup infield positions.
McDonald’s career began with the Cleveland Indians in 1999. He later spent time with Toronto, Detroit and Toronto again before the trade to Arizona.
The trade leaves the Diamondbacks with three middle infielders: Hill, Cliff Pennington and Willie Bloomquist. The latter can also serve as a backup to third baseman Martin Prado.
D-backs general manager Kevin Towers had hinted in a radio interview with 620 KTAR that he was listening to trade inquiries on McDonald. He had communicated as much to McDonald, so the trade did not come as a surprise.
“From a player’s perspective you can’t ask for anything more than honesty and openness from your general manager, coaches, trainers — it all trickles down,” McDonald said. “It makes the organization that much stronger, and players want to be a part of organizations like this.
“If you’re willing to ask tough questions, they’re willing to give you tough answers. You’ve got to be willing to take back answers you may not want to hear, but you don’t go home not knowing.”