The Diamondbacks got the hot stove going properly Wednesday night. A trade that sent Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte is one hell of a way to start the offseason. I mean, no one saw that coming. As we’ve been working diligently on our Offseason Plan, I can let it be known that this is a scenario we’ve discussed, but not one that we saw as being a high possibility. Well, Mike Hazen just let it be known that he’s not afraid to pull out all the stops, because there’s nothing conservative about this trade. The trade is also less than straightforward and you’d certainly like to know how the D-backs made out. So let’s try to get a feel for it.
What Arizona is Giving Up
Jean Segura is clearly the biggest piece going from Arizona to Seattle. Of course, Segura is coming off of what was easily the best season of his career, one in which he set career highs in a multitude of offensive categories. It’s hard to know how much hitting in Arizona was a benefit, and if playing at second base did anything to bolster his production. The Diamondbacks sold high, and a few things will change for Segura in Seattle: he’ll no longer be in a hitter’s park and he’ll be shifting back to shortstop. Segura was projected to make $7.3 million next season in his second pass through arbitration with $10-12 million or more a possibility in 2018. Put it all together, and Segura was in line to make nearly $20 million over the next two years, and it’s hard to imagine he was going to keep producing six wins per season. This isn’t to say that Segura wasn’t worth the money — he probably was — but again, the D-backs sold him at the peak of his value.
Mitch Haniger looked like the kind of guy the Diamondbacks needed — an outfielder that could play stellar defense in a corner and cover center field relatively well in a pinch. Haniger had shown an ability to hit the ball hard, got on base, and went through a tremendous amount of career rehabilitation in the minors to be resurrected as a Dude. With “defenders” like Yasmany Tomas and Brandon Drury patrolling the corners for much of 2016, upgraded outfield defense seemed like a priority. It still may be, but any upgrade won’t be coming from Haniger. His MLB track record is extremely short, and Haniger is anything but a sure bet, but his future looked promising even if he is a late-bloomer. Haniger has loads of team control remaining, but it’s unclear if he’s more than a fourth outfielder going forward. Zac Curtis is a short lefty with mediocre stuff and isn’t a big loss for Arizona. Consider him a throw-in here.
What Arizona is Receiving
As Segura was the headliner going out, Taijuan Walker is clearly the headliner coming in. Walker was the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft out of a New York high school. A raw pitcher with big stuff, he’s seen his stock rise and fall over the course of his minor league and major league career. He’s pitched part of four seasons in the majors with varying degrees of success and failure. In 62 starts, he’s pitched to a 4.18 ERA with a 4.30 FIP while striking out 8.12 batters per nine and walking just 2.50. Just as Segura leaves a hitter’s park for a pitcher’s park, Walker will be moving to a less favorable environment. He’s surrendered 52 home runs over the last two seasons, and while he won’t have to face DH’s, he will have to face Chase Field and Coors Field regularly. Walker’s projected to earn $2.8 million in his first year of arbitration in 2017, but was as Super Two qualifier and will get to head to arbitration four times, rather than the standard three. That’ll be important as Walker continues his career, as he may get pretty expensive come 2019 and 2020.
Ketel Marte isn’t chopped liver, but he did very little convince people otherwise in 2016. His second stint in the majors was rough: Marte struggled to a .259/.287/.323 line in 119 games, good for just a wRC+ of 66. He managed 21 doubles, but just one homer, and stole 11 bases. None of that is particularly impressive, and neither is the fact that he’s a roughly average defender at short. A scuffling bat and a non-sterling glove resulted in Marte being a below-replacement player last season. The saving grace is that he’s cheap and just turned 23-years old last month. There’s room for growth — clearly — and he’s performed well offensively in the minors and was very good in his 2015 MLB rookie campaign, so the hope is for a bounce-back. He’ll play at the league minimum next season, with arbitration looming in 2019.
Putting It All Together, And Moving Forward
This deal represents a couple of intriguing storylines. Seattle is trying to cash in on what’s left of their aging core and Segura helps with that. Hell, Haniger helps with that as he’s fresh and athletic. But Arizona accomplished two goals: they lightened the financial burden by about $5 million for 2017 and the did what every team in baseball wants to do but can’t find a way to pull off: acquire young starting pitching. The Diamondbacks have plenty of pitching concerns and adding Walker complicates the situation in the short term. But he’s controllable for four more years, and while his command has proven a challenge at times, Walker was formerly one of baseball’s top prospects for a reason. His stuff is big, and while the results have been slow to come, the raw talent is still there.
This should sound familiar. Which Diamondbacks pitcher in 2016 fit that narrative? You’d do well to guess “Archie Bradley” here. Both have fastballs that can sit 93-94 and touch higher with plenty of movement. Both have big curveballs, and both have changeups (well, technically a splitter in Walker’s case) that are still developing. Both sit in the middle of the batted ball spectrum, which can be scary, and while Bradley has struck out more hitters, he’s also walked more batters while Walker has been allowing more long balls. Both have their warts, but both have their unrealized potential. There’ve been whispers about both winding up in the bullpen someday, but the Diamondbacks will keep them in the rotation. It’s up to the Diamondbacks to find that potential and cash in on young, big arms. They’ve got them in the fold, now they’ve got to start getting production from them. The last two regimes struggled to pull this off and the newest one hasn’t given up the crusade. Hopefully the results will be different this time around.
Give Mike Hazen credit. He did something every GM has tried and few have been able to accomplish. It’ll push another pitcher from the rotation, and now Arizona can cash in one or two of their pitching assets. They sold high on Segura, which was smart, but they didn’t sell him for prospects. They sold him for MLB players. Arizona isn’t packing it in, but Hazen is clearly willing to tweak the roster if he can get what he wants. Taijuan Walker has a lot of work to do, but he’s the kind of pitcher every team would love to gamble on. Now he’s the Diamondbacks’ gamble, and you can lump him in with guys like Bradley, Patrick Corbin, and Robbie Ray. Lots of potential, lots of question marks. But those are four young, cost-controlled pitchers to pair around Zack Greinke. Maybe Corbin slides and Shelby Miller sticks around. The same applies. With Braden Shipley around and Anthony Banda on the verge, there’s a lot to be done yet and this is just the beginning. Let’s see what’s next.
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