So far it has been a busy offseason for the Seattle Mariners’ front office, with General Manager Jerry Dipoto officially commencing a tear-down en route to a rebuild in 2019 and beyond.
A couple weeks ago, the Ms sent their ace packing, trading James Paxton to the Yankees; of lesser note, they also traded Alex Colomè to the White Sox. Last week, rumors abound that Seattle was ready to deal all star veteran Robinson Cano and bona fide ace closer, Edwin Diaz, a deal that was finalized Monday, and it didn’t stop there.
With the Cano / Diaz trade moving slowly, and with more and more pieces leaked out (some as early as last Thursday), the Mariners remained active, setting up other transactions to finalize even before that trade was announced; this time reportedly sending their all star shortstop Jean Segura to the Phillies in exchange for young, cost-controlled, and largely unproven, J.P Crawford (among other, lesser players of note that are to be determined).
For more info on the earlier blockbuster, Luis Torres took a look at the pieces moved in the trade, with Dan Epstein following up with the winners and losers in the deal. Here we will take a quick look at the shortstop swap.
Before we dive into the specifics of the Jean Segura for J.P. Crawford transaction, it’s worth pointing out just how active Ms’ General Manager Jerry Dipoto has been in his relatively-short three-year-tenure with Seattle. Over that span, Dipoto has retained only a handful of players from the original 40-man roster he inherited. Seattle recruited him in December 2015, following a year in which the team finished 10 games below-.500. In the following three seasons, the Mariners have had ups-and-downs, finishing as high as second, and compiling 89 wins in 2018, but never making the playoffs (a drought that dates back to 2001). Despite trying to go all-in for 2018 (and failing pretty badly, though not ‘Royals-badly’), the time has come for a complete teardown.
The most recent trade chip to fall is Segura. Much like the earlier trade, we basically know the high-level summary of the deal, without having been told it’s official. At 11:00 this morning, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Segura had indeed waived his no-trade clause, and that he would be on his way to Philadelphia.
The Phillies will be Segura’s fifth major league franchise and will inherit the remaining years and dollars of his previously signed five-year contract extension with the Mariners (which he signed in 2016). The Phillies will pay Segura $70 million through the 2022 season, and have a team option for 2023.
Segura has posted three strong years in a row, and has been a 3-5+ win player for four of the last six years. 2014 and 2015 can likely be excused, as the loss of his infant son appeared to plague him during that time (which can understandably be expected).
Since his trade from Milwaukee to Arizona in early 2016, through his tenure with the Mariners, Segura has slashed a combined .308/.353/.449, and has posted a wRC+ between 111 and 126 every season. Though the defensive metrics are inconsistent over those three seasons, his defensive prowess is neutral, at-worst.
The main point of this trade is to get Segura’s salary off the Mariners’ books, because he’s being dealt for a younger, cheaper, and less-proven player than himself. While J.P. Crawford has remained at the top of the Phillies’ prospect organizational rankings, he is only 23, and has played in fewer than one full seasons worth of games over the last two years.
This is a great move for the cash-cow Phillies, who are in prime position to spend this offseason, and have the organizational prospect depth to be able to upgrade a position from an unproven prospect to a win-now player. With Segura, they get a steady .300-hitter who has double-digit power, and provides good speed on the basepaths. Despite being in the majors since 2012, he’s still only 28 years old, and is improving his plate contact. Segura only struck out 10.9 percent of his plate appearances last year, a near-50 percent improvement over his 2017.
Though he likely wouldn’t do the rebuilding Mariners much good, on what is now a team that is likely projected to be considerably below-.500, he’s a great asset for a young, contending team like the Phillies.
With Crawford, it’s hard to say exactly what the Mariners will get in the medium and longer-term, but in the shorter-term, he probably represents a defensive improvement over Segura. He has an excellent batting eye, and in his first MLB call-up, posted a solid .356 on-base percentage.
There are certainly questions surrounding Crawford however, as even though Philadelphia did not have a true, everyday shortstop on their 40-man roster, it took until September 4th before they called Crawford up to The Show. If they were looking for a major spark from him, it never arrived, as shortly after he joined the team, the Phils went on a five-game, and then a season-destroying nine-game losing streak. While it’s simplistic to blame Crawford for that, his .214 average, near 27-percent strikeout rate, and three homers in 138 plate appearances made little difference in the lineup.
Looking at the early offseason projections heading into 2019, Crawford is expected to have a solid walk rate and OBP, but FanGraph’s Depth Charts and Seamer both project an identical .227 batting average. Should that improve to even .260/.270, then you have a shortstop flirting with a .390/.400 OBP, which obviously would be an incredibly valuable asset.
Considering where both teams are on their win-curve, this trade probably makes sense for both sides, especially when you consider the Mariners will receive a few more lottery-ticket minor leaguers. This trade obivously won’t elicit any excitement for fans in the Pacific Northwest, as paying down and trading salaries never (should) excite anyone other than owners and their families, but it’s part of a process to which we have all become so painfully numb.
This is a shrewd move by the Phillies, and overall is a low-risk, high-reward trade gambit that will likely payoff, especially when their roster is completed as the offseason progresses. For instance, throwing a Bryce Harper in the middle of a lineup with Segura, Rhys Hoskins, sure looks like it could potentially be favored to win the NL East.