The Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers surprised the baseball community with a trade on Saturday night — moving veteran second baseman Aaron Hill, starting pitcher Chase Anderson, and middle infield prospect Isan Diaz to the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura and starting pitching prospect Tyler Wagner.
Hill and Segura are the implicit cornerstones of this trade for Arizona: By replacing the former with the latter, the team sheds roughly $10 million in salary and adds their presumed everyday shortstop.
Hill, entering his age-34 season, is owed $12 million in 2016 — the final year of a three-year contract extension. In the past, Hill has been one of the most consistent all-around performers at second base, contributing both with his glove (career 12.9 UZR from the position) and league-average bat (career 97 wRC+).
However, the last two seasons have seen him suffer significant offensive regression, combining for a 75 wRC+ and -0.8 fWAR. The Diamondbacks, who have been rumored to be shopping Hill for a while now, are likely happy to add that flexibility to a competitive season's payroll. Arizona has a plethora of cheap, young hitters with similarly risky bats, but stronger gloves to fill his role — Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, and Brandon Drury who are all pre-arbitration eligible and feature upside at second base.
At the same time, Hill is an interesting bounce-back candidate for the Brewers, who are employing the oft-suggested, rarely implemented strategy of taking on salary for prospects in a rebuilding year. A strong first half from him in a super-utility role could result in a similar trade to the one made by the Royals for Ben Zobrist in 2015.
Segura is a former top-100 prospect who was first included as a cornerstone piece of the trade sending Zack Greinke to the Angels at the 2012 trade deadline. He broke out in 2013, posting a 105 wRC+ with exceptional defense from the shortstop position. His bat has since regressed significantly in the last two years, posting a combined 64 wRC+.
However, there is significant disagreement about the quality of his defense during that time, enough so that differing metrics provide completely different views of the player's total performance.
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The Diamondbacks have a lot of depth in talent potential between second base and shortstop, but not a lot of talent certainty . Segura provides yet another strong option for the team, and will likely be their opening day shortstop. For the Brewers, while he is still only entering his age-26 season, he is also under team control for just three more years — a time period which likely won't overlap with a competitive Milwaukee team.
Rounding out Arizona's return in this trade is Wagner, a player whose inclusion is a bit surprising, given that he's a top 20 organizational prospect for the Brewers, with a strong performance in 2015. Wagner is considered to have a back-end starter or mid-relief profile, due to his age relative to level, outperforming his peripherals, and lacking a consistent third pitch. This is despite chewing up minor league batters to the tune of a 2.56 ERA over 302.1 innings over the last two seasons. He's near the majors but has a low ceiling profile which is in contrast to the Brewers' recent upside-focused prospect acquisition philosophy.
In exchange for accepting an additional $9.4 million in salary, Segura, and Wagner, Milwaukee received two interesting young pieces.
Anderson is a starting pitcher with five years of team control remaining, who is already established in the majors. Over the last two seasons, he's pitched 267 innings at an almost exactly league average rate (105 ERA-, 110 FIP-, 2.3 fWAR). Established starting pitchers who are both young and cheap are valuable commodities, and with the 11th-best changeup over the last two seasons, the Brewers may see some upside here.
Diaz, the 2015 Pioneer League MVP, absolutely decimated that short-season league as a 19-year-old shortstop. He was the Diamondbacks Comp Round B pick in 2014, and hit .360/.436/.640 with 13 home runs, 25 doubles, and 12 stolen bases in only 68 games. The Brewers have worked to restock their farm system with this kind of super-toolsy, athletic prospect over the last two years. He fits right in among the likes of Orlando Arcia, Tyrone Taylor, Brett Phillips, Gilbert Lara, Trent Clark, Monte Harrison, Jacob Gatewood, and Demi Orimoloye.
In total, this trade seems to be amenable for both teams. The Diamondbacks get their shortstop, a depth pitching piece, and clear salary space entering a competitive season where having the flexibility to make moves will be important. The Brewers get a potential rebound candidate, an established young starter, and high-ceiling prospect for $10 million and a player who is at a relative low point in his value.
There may be some disagreement about the timing of trading Segura at this lull in value, but otherwise both fan bases should be pretty happy.
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Spencer Bingol is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpencerBingol.