John McDonald — who was once traded for himself — retires

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

One of the more fascinating baseball careers over the past two decades officially ended on Wednesday when John McDonald retired after 16 seasons in the big leagues. Fascinating because, well, let's be honest, there's a pretty good chance most casual baseball fans aren't familiar with who McDonald is or what his contributions were, which is unique for a such long-tenured player.

McDonald, 40, was a utilityman, a jack-of-all-trades type, who at one time or another — and sometimes more than once — suited up for eight different teams. In order of first appearance, McDonald played for the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels.

McDonald didn't excel at any one part of the game, but was competent at several. In the field, he logged time at every position but catcher and first base. Yes, he even pitched one-third of an inning for the Phillies in 2013.

As a batter, he hit .233/.273/.323 with 26 homers, 210 RBIs in 1,100 games and 2,651 plate appearances. Just let that sink in. He played 16 seasons, yet only received 2,651 plate appearances, or roughly 409 plate appearances fewer than new Hall of Famer Craig Biggio's 3,060 career hits.

That's tough to do, but perhaps not as difficult as McDonald's strangest claim to fame. In 2005, McDonald was essentially traded for himself in a one-for-one deal involving Toronto and Detroit.

How does that work exactly? On July 22, 2005, McDonald was sent to Detroit in a conditional deal where compensation would be finalized months down the road. In November of the same year, the two sides settled the deal when Detroit sent cash to Toronto. A few days later, Toronto used that money to buy McDonald back, finalizing what was basically a three-month rental.

It's a very strange scenario, but it's not a first.

After digging the baseball history books, it turns out McDonald is one of six MLB players to be traded under these circumstances. Clint Courtney was the first in 1961. On January 24, Courtney was traded by the Baltimore Orioles to the Kansas City Athletics in a seven-player deal. On April 15, he was sent back to Baltimore to complete the deal. Harry Chiti (1962), Mark Ross (1985-86), Dickie Noles (1987) and Archie Corbin (1992-93) are the others.

It's probably not a distinction McDonald envisioned as a young ballplayer, but it oddly fits the type of career he had. He wasn't a star, but he was a darn good replacement. Even when the player he was replacing was himself.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!