The Demolition Continues
Is this Seattle's new shortstop? We'll find out later today.
December 3, 2018
Another day, another big trade for the Mariners. Well, "big"; the word has a lot of room for interpretation.
It's big in that General Manager Jerry Dipoto is dealing away another big name, All-Star shortstop Jean Segura. It's maybe not so big in what he's getting back. Or maybe it is, this one's hard to project.
The deal isn't final yet, and what the whole package will include isn't known. What is expected is that Segura will be traded to Philadelphia and that in return the M's will get young Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford and not-so-young first baseman Carlos Santana. Other players may also be involved.
The logic of this trade is less obvious than that of the previous four—Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia, and Michael Plassmeyer for Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley; James Paxton for Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams; Alex Colomé for Omar Narváez; and Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz, and $20M for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Justin Dunn, Jerred Kelenic, and Gerson Bautista—in that the monetary savings is not substantial (it's actually negative if you look at it annually) and the return is more of a crapshoot.
There may yet be more to it that is currently known, and we'll find out later today. But if there are no more prospects coming Seattle's way from Philly, the return for Segura—a .308/.353/.449 hitter over the past three years and a fine defender and baserunner, owed $45.5M through 2022—is a slow 33-year-old power-hitting first baseman/designated hitter with a .247 career average owed $41.667M through 2020, and a former top-prospect shortstop who has disappointed the team that drafted him.
Santana is about as consistent as they come, you know what you're getting with him: a sub-.250 batting average, lots of walks, 25-35 home runs, and around 100 Ks. The walks are nice—he's never posted an on-base mark under .350—and he can be relied upon to be a slightly less productive Nelson Cruz. He's overpaid, but he can still work in a lineup. He's a rather average defender at first, but he can play in the field or at DH.
Crawford is the mystery. Cousin to former All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford, left-handed-batting J.P. was a first-round draft choice of the Phillies in 2013. He blew up the charts in the Gulf Coast rookie league with a .345/.443/.465 line that year, but in seasons since hasn't impressed much at any level above advanced-Class-A. What he has always had going for him at every level is his batting eye—his aggregate minor-league OBP is .366—but his best batting average above A-ball thus far is just .265 between 2015 and '16 at Double-A Reading. His last full season in the minors, 2017, saw him hit .243/.351/.405 at Triple-A Leigh Valley. He spent much of 2018 on the disabled list with a flexor strain and then a broken hand, so his numbers from last year (.214/.319/.393) probably don't mean much; what might be encouraging are his numbers after returning from the hand injury, .292/.346/.625 in 24 at-bats last September.
Crawford also has a reputation as a quality gloveman—MLB Pipeline named him as the top defensive shortstop prospect in 2017—but the Phillies have soured on him some there as well, noting the -6 Defensive Runs Saved mark and -3.4 Ultimate Zone Rating bestowed upon him by sabermatricians for his brief time thus far in the Majors. MinorLeagueBall.com, on the other hand, rated him highly in 2017 as a "smooth defender with plus arm strength, plus range, plus fielding instincts and reliability."
Getting Crawford might indeed mean big things in the coming years for the Mariners, and he won't be a free agent until 2024. Dipoto seems to think that this by itself is worth essentially losing money on the rest of the deal; with Segura and Santana's salary obligations basically a wash except Santana's are only for two years while Segura's are for four, the financial part of this trade doesn't make sense. And we've been burned by highly-ranked prospect deals before (see: Smoak, Justin; Montero, Jesús).
Four years of Jean Segura is worth more than two years of Carlos Santana, so here's hoping Dipoto's enthusiasm for J.P. Crawford is justified.
Also going to Philadelphia are pitchers Juan Nicasio (logical, given his $9M contract) and James Pazos (not so much, given his relative lack of expense, but not a huge loss either). No other players coming back the other direction, which makes this feel even stranger. Prove Dipoto right, J.P.!