Lost: Jean Segura
Gained: Ketel Marte
Can I just start off by saying, I hope Marte takes Michael Bourn’s old number, simply because the promotional deals from having Ketel #1 just sign themselves, don’t they?
The departure of Segura, however, does significantly impact the team for 2017. Whether or not he repeats his performance doesn’t matter any longer for Arizona, but they still need to match - or, at least, try to match - the 5.7 bWAR Jean gave them last season. Right now, the obvious incumbents for the middle-infield would appear to be Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings, but consideration should also be given, not just to new arrival Marte, but Brandon Drury.
Drury was the Flying Dutchman of the Diamondbacks last season, cursed to perpetually wander Chase Field without finding a permanent spot. He started 25 or more games at three different positions (LF, RF and 3B). But the outfield was not his natural position, and with Jake Lamb likely the everyday third baseman, another shift to second may be his best chance for regular playing time. New GM Mike Hazen does seem to be a fan of Drury, saying earlier this month, "I think more than anything else when you have a hitter of that caliber you want to find him at-bats... You find a way to get him on the field. That’s of the most critical importance, getting him in the lineup. The defensive position becomes secondary."
Owings also saw significant time in Arizona’s outfield, but did play mostly at shortstop, particularly in the second half, after Ahmed was lost to injury. The role Ahmed gets is up in the air. He’ll first have to prove his health, after a season where hip issues hampered him, and eventually led to season-ending surgery in August. Then he’ll have to show that his undoubted defensive talent is not outweighed by his offensive shortcomings. He’ll turn 27 before Opening Day, has close to 250 major-league games under his belt, and has an OPS+ of only 58. Ahmed’s playing time may be determined by how the new front-office values defense, and where it wants to strike the balance.
Marte is the wild-card. He was worth more than two bWAR in just 57 games during his rookie season of 2015, but was barely better than replacement level this year, in about twice as much playing-time. That performance reminded me a bit of what Owings did, with a great age 22 rookie campaign, followed by an underwhelming sophomore season. Marte is a year younger, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s felt he’ll be better served with some more development in the minors. Regular playing time there might be preferable to intermittent major-league at-bats.
Lost: Mitch Haniger
It wouldn’t surprise me if Haniger turns out to be the most valuable player the Mariners received in the trade. He won’t necessarily be better than Segura in any season, but the fact that he is team under control through the end of 2022, rather than Jean’s two years, more than makes up for it. Mitch has never been ranked as a top prospect, but showed potential with both the bat and glove during his 34 games for Arizona this year. He’d certainly have been in the mix, and perhaps even the leading contender, for the fourth outfielder spot in 2017.
With Haniger’s departure, that position could now go to holdover Socrates Brito, but the most likely beneficiary is Jeremy Hazelbaker, recently picked up on waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals. One presumes the new front-office picked him up for a specific purpose, perhaps with this very trade in mind - the deal has been in the works for a few weeks. Both are left-handed bats, so either would allow the Diamondbacks to balance their options in the outfield alongside fellow southpaw David Peralta, plus righties A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas.
Lost: Zac Curtis
Gained: Taijuan Walker
Walker provides another arm on the list of possible contenders for the Arizona rotation in 2017, which was already pretty long. That the team saw fit to add additional depth does suggest that Hazen and crew looked at the current candidates and found them wanting in one or more aspects. For now, we can only speculate as to exactly what those might be. For example, does it mean the prognosis for Rubby De La Rosa’s balky elbow is not optimistic? He was last heard having stem-cell treatment on it, and even if he pitches again, a Hudsonesque move to the bullpen may be in his long-term best interests.
Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Walker and Shelby Miller would appear to be more or less locks for the Opening Day 2017 rotation, though the new front-office doesn’t have the same ties to Miller as Dave Stewart. Right now, the fifth spot could go to any of Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin, De La Rosa or Braden Shipley. I think Corbin might be the front-runner in the early going, although he has to show he can handle things back as a starting pitcher again. But there’s a long way to go before pitchers and catchers report in February, never mind Opening Day.
Curtis was one of the contenders for a spot in the D-backs bullpen, so his departure thins the herd a little there. As a left-handed reliever, that likely benefits other LHP most, such as Steve Hathaway, Edwin Escobar and Adam Loewen. That trio were much of a muchness in terms of contribution, and it’s not clear whether the 2017 bullpen will contain one left-hander (Andrew Chafin setting the pace) or two.
Not to be forgotten is the impact on 2017 payroll. Both Walker and Segura are eligible for arbitration, but being at different stages, are likely to receive substantially different amounts MLB Trade Rumors estimates that Walker, a "Super Two" who gets a bonus trip through arb, so is in his first of four years, would get $2.8 million. Segura is in his second season, and after his excellent 2016 campaign is projected to earn $7.3 million. The difference is $4.5 million, which can now be plowed by Mike Hazen into other areas, perhaps such as signing a front-line reliever.
It’s a statement, that’s to be sure. This was new GM Hazen coming in and making an immediate splash, trading away probably the best player acquired by his predecessor. However, what it’s saying is considerably less certain. That we sent away our most productive offensive player for a starting pitcher seems to confirm that Hazen feels the hitting can handle itself, while the pitching needs help. However, it was a smart trade in that it was neither a purely "win now" trade nor a "future consideration" one, but something in the middle,, potentially helping the team in both the short and long term.
However, it is still a risk. As Michael examined yesterday, it relies on the team being able to turn Walker’s potential into results, and perhaps also Segura regressing back towards his career norms. Neither are particularly long-shot bets though, and there’s a good chance it will actually work out well enough for both sides, given their slightly different timelines, with Seattle nearer contention than Arizona.