But many have said that the Mariners return doesn’t look right. Of course, I plenty to say about that.
You may wonder, why would the Mariners trade their All-Star caliber shortstop? He’s arguably one of the better free agent signings of recent years. Well, he is making $17 million for 2019, 2020, and 2021, with an option for 2022 that has a $1 million buyout.
Plus, you shed a reliever about to make $9 million in 2019 - like you need that on a rebuilding team. Pazos may still have promise and is cheap and controllable. And, while Nicasio had a 6 ERA and knee troubles in 2018, his high strikeout rate and low walk rate suggest he’s actually worth that $9 million if healthy in 2019.
But then, the Mariners take on Santana’s $42 million and an unproven shortstop with upside not quite that of what Segura is in the middle of doing. This trade doesn’t look as good for the Mariners as the trade with the Mets did in the end. But, outside of obvious cost savings in the long run, what is this trade really?
Phillies Get Jean Segura
The Phillies are in win-now mode as their rebuild is ahead of schedule. The Phillies get out of the mistake they made with Santana and move young slugger Rhys Hoskins out of left field and to first base where he belongs. They also get the shortstop they need right now in Segura, who is much different than the - supposedly - on-base and glove-first Crawford.
Segura is far from expensive when you consider he’s a 3 win shortstop. He only made $9 million in 2018, and will earn $14.2 million a year from 2019 through 2022. He also has a $17 million option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout. He’s going into his age-29 season and is projected for about 2.6 WAR in 2019 by Steamer. That means he is looking to decline, so I will easily take the over on this projection, as will the Phillies.
But, even if that projection is spot on and even if he declines slightly each year going forward - something like 2.6 WAR in 2019, 2.3 WAR in 2020, 2 WAR in 2021, and 1.7 WAR in 2022, that’s still a total of 9.6 WAR, which would be worth something like $76 million over 4 years on the open market. They’ll only owe him $58 million or so. This is an excellent contract.
Really, the only issue with Segura is that he’s considered to be a disturbance in the clubhouse. He’s apparently not a very well-liked player. The Phillies don’t seem to have any issues with his makeup, though. So, the Mariners gave up a really good player. However, $14.2 million is a lot to pay for a win-now shortstop when you’re not in win-now mode.
Let’s also remember that the Mariners get the Phillies’ shortstop in return. We’ll get to him in a bit.
Phils get Nicasio and Pazos
Nicasio did have a knee issue, but he’s a known quantity. He was once a useful starter who’s become a more useful relever. The Mariners didn’t really need a guy making $9 million though. However, the Phillies can use him. Also, they are essentially eating the $9 million he’s earning in exchange for getting Segura. The good news for the Phillies is that he’s probably a strong contributor.
Pazos has promise, and unlike Nicasio who’s probably a buy-low candidate, he’s a sell-high candidate here. He makes absorbing Nicasio’s salary a little more tolerable perhaps. When you’re building for 2021, the Mariners are not going to need to stockpile relievers anyway. But, the Phillies could use him as a lefty out of their pen for a couple of years and be happy about it. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2020.
Between Nicasio and Pazos, the Phillies probably gain 0.5 a win. So, when you consider that even a slight disappointment from Segura is still surplus value, this is even better.
Mariners get JP Crawford
Crawford has a lot of upside which hasn’t been evident at the major league level so far. But Crawford could easily provide pretty much the same value as Segura in the long run, but in a different way. While Segura is contact oriented with average-ish defense, Crawford is seen as a plus defender with strong on-base skills. They are both valuable, just in different ways. Crawford is also younger and much, much cheaper.
Crawford is only looking at his age-24 season in 2019, meaning he’s not even yet in his prime! Steamer projects him for a .228/.321/.361 batting line while being about 4 runs above average on defense. That’s good for a 1.9 WAR in 146 games. That’s while making $555,000 in 2019. That’s not what Segura is doing, of course, but that’s almost a league average shortstop for next to nothing. Plus, his first year of arbitration is in 2021. Right there, the Mariners save about $27 million over the next two years.
However, the money savings isn’t really the main draw here. Crawford has shown flashes with both the glove and the bat. Scouts agree that he still has some modest raw power he could grow into. If J.P. pops a few more home runs or becomes more steady on defense, Crawford is easily a 3 win player, about what Segura is expected to be for the next couple of years. In arbitration, Crawford will likely not attain anywhere near $14.2 million in 2021 or 2022 by arbitration.
Of course, the Mariners may decide to sign Crawford to a team-friendly deal. If Crawford becomes more of a glove-first player, they will get a real bargain. That’s exactly what the Mariners are counting on. It’s not that they didn’t like Segura. It’s just that Crawford could offer the same value for less, and there’s still upside.
Santana is hardly a negative, really. In fact, he will likely replace a lot of the lost offensive runs from losing Segura. He actually gives the Mariners lineup an anchor outside of Mitch Haniger. Remember, this is a team that just lost Nelson Cruz. He basically fills that role.
Santana is due $17 million in 2019 and $17.5 million in 2020. He’s also due a signing bonus of $3,333,333 in each of those seasons. There’s also a $500,000 buyout on a team option for $17.5 million in 2021. Essentially, he’s owed $40.5 million. But, if you take Nicasio’s $9 million out of that exchange, that becomes closer to $31.5 million.
So, you’re basically paying Santana $11 million in 2019 and $20.5 million in 2020. At 33, Santana still projects as a 2.5 WAR player in 2019 and probably a 2 WAR player in 2020. For that money, and considering he can DH, that’s pretty good. Also, Santana was actually a neutral defensive player at first base in 2018. So, he’s actually not a negative in the field.
Santana still walks a ton, strikes out less than he walks for the most part, and hits 20-25 home runs a year. That isn’t quite what Nelson Cruz just gave the Mariners, but it’s good enough. You’re not getting a better deal to anchor your lineup for the next couple of seasons.
Did The Mariners Get Better or Worse?
On paper, if you trust in the projections, the Mariners are probably better without Segura if you consider Santana’s steady offensive presence and Crawford still being useful. Of course, the Phillies are a better team with Segura right now than Crawford and don’t actually get worse without Santana, as Rhys Hoskins will no longer butcher in left field (-24 DRS in 2018!)
Essentially, this is a redistribution of resources. The Mariners save a significant amount of money in the next couple of seasons and only have to give some of that money to Crawford in 2021 and 2022 if he’s good. Of course, Crawford could never pan out. But, I still say the Mariners aren’t in that bad of shape. They may be slightly worse on paper, but they gained financial flexibility.
Did the Phillies Get a Lot Better?
Considering that Crawford was worth only 0.5 WAR in 2017 and 0.3 WAR in 2018 for the Phillies, Segura is an obvious upgrade. Rhys Hoskins can now slug from first base, which opens left field up for the underwhelming Nick Williams who at least won’t give away 2 wins of value in the field. The Phillies lose Santana who was about a league-average first baseman, but that’s made up by the gains at shortstop and the addition-by-subtraction of moving Hoskins to first.
Also, the Phillies take only very little extra money in 2019 with Nicasio while potentially getting a fine reliever. They actually save some money in 2020. They also get a cost-controlled shortstop that is likely league-average or better with a market value team option in 2023. The Phillies are a clearly better team now. Did they win this trade?
Who Won the Jean Segura Trade?
Whoever wins the Jean Segura - JP Crawford trade really depends on what Crawford does in 2019-2022. Segura would have to be absolutely terrible for this to be a loss for the Phillies. As is the case with most trades, they are meant to be pretty fair for either side. I like this trade a lot for both teams. The Mariners gain some flexibility financially for 2021 and 2022 while getting a player with upside and a middle-of-the-order bat to stay respectable. The Phillies aim to win the National League East.
The Mariners are rebuilding, but they’re hardly tanking. The Phillies were happy to match up with them and do some asset redistribution. It’s probably not the end for the Mariners but the Phillies are probably feeling pretty good right now. Both teams should after this trade.