Why Phillies' Acquisition of Jean Segura Was Probably Best Trade in Baseball This Past Offseason

It may be surprising now that Philadelphia has gotten a taste of what Jean Segura is all about, but there were some questions locally and nationally this offseason about just how valuable a player he is.

Some questioned why a player with Segura's resume has been traded four times already in his big-league career and three times in less than three years from 2016-18.

Even though there was little evidence, opinions ranged from "he's overrated" to "he's not a winning player" to "it's an empty batting average" to "there must be clubhouse issues."

It was a bunch of nonsense. Look at the trades Segura has been involved in. 

In 2012, he was a prospect traded from the Angels to the Brewers for an established Zack Greinke. 

In January 2016, he was traded to the Diamondbacks to allow Milwaukee to make room for its then-top prospect, Orlando Arcia.

In December 2016, he was traded from Arizona to Seattle for top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker.

And then on Dec. 3, 2018, the Phillies acquired him from a Mariners team looking to retool.

It's not as if any of these teams were itching to get rid of Segura. It's just so happened that his teams have been in different phases of contention, and in two cases, building for the future was the No. 1 priority.

Segura is hitting .340 with 11 extra-base hits in 101 plate appearances this season. He's been both a table-setter and run producer for the Phillies at the most important defensive position other than catcher.

Looking back at this offseason, there was not a better trade made by any team than the Phillies' deal for Segura, which sent an unproven J.P. Crawford and a solid but overpaid and ill-fitting Carlos Santana to Seattle in exchange for Segura, Juan Nicasio and James Pazos. Nicasio has struggled and Pazos has already been dealt to the Rockies, but Segura is the only part of the deal that ever mattered.

When comparing trades, you have to factor in the quality of player the Phillies received and the quality of players they shipped out. Crawford was, at one time, a top prospect. But he has not hit in the majors and is just a .249 career hitter at Triple A in more than 1,100 plate appearances. A disciplined eye is an important quality but a player needs more than just plate selection to succeed.

The Phillies' front office took advantage of the position the Mariners were in. Seattle was looking to shed future money and reallocate playing time to younger players. In many other offseasons, a player like Segura would have been traded for more, if at all.

There were other high-profile trades around baseball this past offseason. The Phillies acquired J.T. Realmuto. The Cardinals got Paul Goldschmidt. The Yankees traded for James Paxton. The Mets acquired Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano.

But those other trades all involved top young players. 

Realmuto cost the Phillies Jorge Alfaro and Sixto Sanchez, whose shine is slowly wearing off because of durability concerns. That, too, was a great deal for the Phillies.

Goldschmidt cost the Cardinals Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly. Weaver has been excellent in the D-backs' rotation and Kelly is viewed as an everyday catcher whose bat will determine how long he keeps that role.

Paxton cost the Yankees Justus Sheffield, a top pitching prospect who has succeeded at every minor-league level.

For the Mets, landing Diaz meant taking on the remaining $120 million of a declining Cano's contract, while also parting with highly touted outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

The Phillies gave up less than all of these teams for Segura, who was already under contract longer and who is arguably an even more impactful two-way player. 

Goldschmidt is the better bat, no doubt, but when you factor in defense and contract, Segura might equal or exceed his value. St. Louis signed Goldschmidt to a five-year, $130 million extension before the season.

Segura was already under contract for $14.85 million per season in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, with a 2023 team option. A more than fair price for one of the best shortstops in baseball.

The Phillies essentially turned Crawford into a shortstop who is even better than the best-case scenario of what Crawford could be.

Any GM can spend the owner's money. What separates an average front office from a good one is a move like the Segura trade.

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