The acquisition of shortstop Jean Segura late Saturday afternoon opens a number of scenarios for the Diamondbacks. Most intriguing is a possible middle infield configuration or even rotation among several players.
Obtaining Segura, who will be 26 on March 17, from the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Chase Anderson, second baseman Aaron Hill and prospect Isan Diaz, the Diamondbacks clearly added the competition factor to their shortstop job. In addition, the Diamondbacks acquired right-hander Tyler Wagner, who led the Southern League with a 2.25 ERA at Biloxi, the Brewers’ Double AA affiliate.
With the trade, the Diamondbacks appear on a course of two directions. First, Segura could come right in and be anointed as the Arizona shortstop. That would take the job immediately away from Nick Ahmed. Age is similar. Each will turn 26 this March, and Ahmed celebrates his birthday on March 15.
While the Diamondbacks love Ahmed’s glove and his ability to save runs, defensive numbers between the two are comparable. For the 2015 season, Segura committed 19 errors and had a fielding percentage of .969 for 622 chances. At the same time, Ahmed committed six fewer errors and had a slighter higher fielding percentage of .977, but had 571 chances.
Separation takes place here, and that’s because Segura is a proven major league hitter. In the span of his four-year major league career, Segura, a native of San Juan in the Dominion Republic, has a .257 batting average for 1,812 times at the plate. By contrast, Ahmed has a career batting average of .222 (109-for-491) over parts of two seasons, and has only 32 extra base hits in this span.
In an ironic twist, Segura, who was signed by the Angels as a free agent in January of 2007, was part of an earlier Zack Greinke transaction. On July 27, 2012, Segura was dealt, along with Johnny Hellwig and Ariel Pena by the Angels to the Brewers for Grienke, now his teammate in the desert.
While the Diamondbacks hold Ahmed’s glove in high esteem, management appears, at the moment, as quite impatient. At the recent winter meetings, manager Chip Hale repeated that the Diamondbacks are in a “win now” mode, and preparation this spring has a heighten sense of urgency.
If the acquisition of Segura accentuates the competition at shortstop, other factors of this deal should be considered. First, the Diamondbacks’ heavy financial burden to Hill is now lifted. With a contract worth $12 million for 2016 and Hill coming off a .230 season (72-for-313), six home runs and 39 RBISs, his numbers were considered marginal at best. The Diamondbacks also gave the Brewers an undisclosed amount of cash to help off-set Hill’s contract.
It’s no secret the Diamondbacks have tried to unload Hill for the past two seasons. The fact the Brewers were willing to take the veteran infielder off their hands was considered a significant achievement by Dave Stewart, the Arizona general manager.
With Hill out of the running for the Diamondbacks’ second base job, Chris Owings, who hit .227 last season and carried an injured left shoulder through the year, was apparently given the job. In spring training, Owings could be pushed by Phil Gosselin, whom Hale calls “a professional hitter,” and hit, a respectable .303 (20-for-67) in 24 games since coming over in a trade with Atlanta at mid-season.
After the Diamondbacks signed Greinke as a free agent and acquired right-hander Shelby Miller in a trade with the Braves in the off-season, Anderson was shown the tightrope. Walking precariously and clearly on the proverbial bubble, Anderson was considered a long shot to make the 25-man roster. The same can be said for right-hander Archie Bradley, whose fate remains unknown. Bradley will show up at Salt River, site of the Diamondbacks spring training site, with the hope and expectation of making an indelible impression on the Arizona decision-makers.
While the Brewers pick up Anderson, considered a back-of-the-rotation starter and Hill, Milwaukee general manager David Stearns said the deal strengthens his team. Though the trade was announced Saturday, the Diamondbacks and Brewers have been taking for several weeks.
“This is actually a trade we’ve been working on for a long time,” Stearns told MLB.com. “Stewart was one of the first general managers I spoke to when I got the position, about potential trades. We went through a number of different iterations and discussions with different players involved, and ultimately this concept picked up steam over the past week.”
If Stewart and other decision-makers came under fire for trading highly rated prospects in shortstop Dansby Swanson, the former number one pick overall in 2015 draft and dealing right-hander pitcher Aaron Blair, one of the organization’s top prospect and another one pick of Arizona in the Miller deal, the Diamondbacks now part with Diaz, who was the Pioneer League MVP for rookie Missoula. At 19-years-old Diaz hit .360 with 15 home runs and knocked in 51 runs. Diaz was instrumental in leading Missoula to the Pioneer League championship and their first league title since 2012.