Ah, 2018 — what a delightfully strange season that was for the Philadelphia Phillies. It almost feels as if it were decades ago at this point...
Let’s set the scene:
The Phillies were coming off of a pretty terrible year in 2017, finishing at a woeful 66-96 — but the team left the year with heads held high, encouraged by the emergence of RHP Aaron Nola, 1B Rhys Hoskins, and a center fielder that shall remain nameless.
Thus, Phillies General Manager, Matt Klentak, decided it was time to push the team’s competitive timeline a bit, and did so by adding two big name Free Agents in 1B Carlos Santana and RHP Jake Arrieta — both of whom went on to have middling debut seasons.
However, thanks to a Cy Young worthy performance from Aaron Nola, encouraging seasons from young talent like Jorge Alfaro, Rhys Hoskins, and Nick Williams, and solid numbers from their newest acquisitions, the Phillies finished 80-82, the closest they’d come to a winning record in quite some time.
And then... things got a little bit weird.
During the regular season Carlos Santana was hounded by fans for “underperforming” in his first season as a Phillie, slashing a less-than-good .229/.352/.414, and logging a decent, but not great, 1.6 rWAR. So, it became a popular narrative within the Phillies’ Twitterverse that the team should offload Santana’s contract to anyone who might be willing to take it...
Then, post-trade, reports began to surface of Santana running into a bit of a scuffle with his fellow teammates during the season — citing that the players would retreat to the clubhouse before, after, and DURING games to play... Fortnite... which, rightfully, irked the veteran slugger.
Carlos Santana was so livid that his Phillies teammates played Fortnite during games in 2018 that he grabbed a bat and smashed a TV. With an overhauled team that includes Bryce Harper, what have the Phillies done to address their clubhouse? Story at ESPN: https://t.co/vXFgetp5Of pic.twitter.com/tou1coHToL— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 18, 2019
This emerged as just another reason for Phillie fans to have wanted Santana gone — even though they may have respected the passionate, veteran-like move that he demonstrated by absolutely demolishing a television.
And thus, the Jean Segura trade was born.
Here’s how the transaction looked at first glance:
The Mariners receive: SS JP Crawford, 1B Carlos Santana
The Phillies receive: SS Jean Segura, RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP James Pazos
The immediate reaction to the trade, from a Phillie fan’s perspective: it was a fleece in favor of the Phils.
The hindsight fan’s reaction: um... maybe not so much.
Let’s break it down, knowing what we know now:
The Mariners Haul:
Let’s face it, Carlos Santana should never have been a Phillie in the first place.
The Phillies had their decided first baseman of the future in Rhys Hoskins, and yet, GM Matt Klentak still decided to pursue Santana in Free Agency for some unknown reason — and dropped $60 Million to keep him here into his mid-30’s.
Thus began an experiment to attempt to move Rhys Hoskins into left field — one that is infamous for failing gloriously.
The Phillies also tried shifting Santana to third base while starting Hoskins at first... but that didn’t work, either.
Ultimately, the Phils were left with “no other option” but to ship Carlos away.
But, here’s the thing — Carlos Santana was notoriously one of the most unlucky hitters of the 2018 season. Thus, when he went on to put up a career season in 2019 with Cleveland, it was widely seen as somewhat predictable.
Had the Phillies known Santana would go on to put up his greatest ever season in Cleveland the next year, the team surely wouldn’t have felt so inclined to deal him.
Similarly, had they known the DH would be introduced to the National League two years later, perhaps Santana would still don red pinstripes today.
Yet, they were aware of neither of these things, and, from the teams’ perspective, erasing the whole of Santana’s remaining $40M *looked* like a huge win for the team... (the past tense is doing a lot of work in this statement, mind you.)
Ultimately, Santana’s $40M was replaced with Jean Segura’s $40M... but we’ll get to that later.
Oh boy, this one’s gonna hurt.
Now, let me preface this by saying — we have absolutely no idea what JP Crawford actually is just yet. He’s still only 25 years old, and has played in just 100 games with the Mariners... but it sure looks like the Phillies lost a good one here.
Crawford had a tumultuous career with the Phightin’s. He began as a heavily-hyped prospect, boasting a solid batters’ eye, and an incredibly impressive set of defensive skills. Yet, as his career here progressed, the Phillies saw less and less of a “high-ceiling” status from JP, and more “high-floor” role player, so they felt no real regret upon dealing him initially. It was “time to move on.”
Here’s the kicker — across 100 games with the Mariners, Crawford has already amassed 1.7 rWAR, 0.6 of which has already come in SEVEN games in 2020. There’s no denying it; he’s been awesome thus far for Seattle.
To this point in 2020 Crawford is slashing .375/.516/.583, and is second in the Major Leagues in walks with 7. He also leads the league in triples, and is flashing one heck of a glove at shortstop.
AND, on top of everything else, he doesn’t hit Free Agency until 2025, making him an incredibly controllable player — but we knew that going into the trade.
Again, we can’t be sure just how big of a loss JP Crawford will be until we get one or two full seasons out of him, but, based upon what we’ve seen thus far... it’s certainly looking like this might be one that the Phillies will regret.
The Phillies Side:
This was the big draw for the Phillies in this deal — a contact-prone, .300-hitting shortstop with average defensive capabilities on a fair contract. Not a bad piece to have if you’re a team looking to tackle a competitive window sometime in the near future.
Unfortunately, that version of Jean Segura is not quite the version they got.
Segura finished 2019 with a respectable .280/.323/.420 slash, alongside 12 home runs, and 1.5 rWAR. While this isn’t a bad turnout by any means, it certainly wasn’t exactly what they had in mind when they dealt a top prospect for him.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like Jean Segura, and I think he’s MUCH better than what we saw in 2019 in terms of offense. However, it seems that Segura is less-than capable of sticking at shortstop long term, which has forced the Phillies to transfer him to third base, where he’s currently seeing the majority of his reps in 2020.
Knowing this, I would be lying if I weren’t to say that it’s a bit of a disappointment that the Phillies will be paying Segura a substantial $14.5 Million thru his age 32 season, as it seems he’ll be relegated to either second or third base for the remainder of his tenure in Philadelphia.
That said, in hindsight, this seemed like a pretty excellent exchange at the time. Move the $40M you owe a first baseman you have no space for, and receive a $40M contract of a player who checks multiple boxes for you. The team needed a reliable contact hitter, and a serviceable shortstop, and that’s exactly what they got from Jean Segura.
Don’t even get me started.
This was an inconsequential move eventually, but Nicasio was, as I’m sure you know, a big disappointment for the Phillies.
The team needed bullpen help, and Nicasio, who was owed ~$8M at the time, boasted solid peripherals from 2018, making him a solid target to bolster the Phils’ bullpen, while also aiding the Mariners in taking some salary off of their hands.
But, he was really bad, and that’s all there is to say about that.
Pazos seemed like a solid get out of this deal. He was a left-handed reliever, which the Phillies desperately needed, and rocked a really cool mustache.
But, Pazos never actually saw a game with the Phillies Big Club, and, after a disappointing start to his Triple-A campaign, James was DFA’d by the team, after they’d selected the contract of everyone’s favorite utility man, Sean Rodriguez — and that was the end of Pazos (and, again, his really cool mustache.)
So, in summary, here’s the TL;DR of the Jean Segura trade:
The Phillies dealt a first baseman that they should have never signed from the get-go, alongside a high-floor, defensive wizard with five years of control who seems like he’s developing a decent bat — for a contact-prone 2B/3B, and a couple of bullpen arms that no longer reside with the club.
Personally, I don’t think we’ve seen enough out of either of JP Crawford or Jean Segura to truly crown who “won” this particular transaction.
Would I say the Phillies lost this deal? No, not just yet — but I certainly feel worse about it than when the deal was initially announced.
Jean Segura still has three years left on his contract, and should remain productive thru his age 32 season. Plus, he’s shown really impressive defensive capability at both 3B and 2B at various points — so that’s a bright spot to keep in mind for later on down the line.
That said, Carlos Santana did go on to put up a near-5 WAR season with Cleveland in 2019, and JP Crawford has a ridiculous amount of control left. Regardless of how his hit tool pans out, it certainly feels like he’ll be a productive player for a long time to come.
Again, in my opinion, we don’t know enough to decide a true verdict just yet, but I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this trade again somewhere down the line — whether that be for better or worse... I’m not sure.