The Diamondbacks’ trade of Jean Segura made sense. Sure, Segura had just put together the best season of his career, his lone season in the desert, and was the team’s most valuable player by fWAR in 2016. It hurt to see him go, no doubt, as Jean’s infectious attitude on the field gave fans a reason to smile. His performance surely helped in that regard, too. But it was a long-term play, one where GM Mike Hazen parlayed a bit of current production for plenty of future production. Or so it seemed at the time.
In truth, it hasn’t been much of a tradeoff at all.
The middle infield hole(s) left by Segura’s absence have been filled by a combination of Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury. Those three have all made excellent contributions to the team’s excellent start, one that sees them in the thick of the playoff race at this early-season juncture. In fact, Owings alone has filled Segura’s shoes, at least in terms of overall value. While Segura has been excellent this season in Seattle, Chris Owings has turned some heads of his own.
Owings has played six fewer games than Segura, but their overall production has been almost identical. What Owings has conceded in terms of offense he’s made up for on the bases. The defensive comparison is difficult given that Owings has seen his share of time in the outfield while Segura has just lined up at short. Nits can be picked, but Chris Owings has filled Segura’s shoes adequately so far.
But moving Segura opened up an opportunity for Brandon Drury to get out of the outfield, somewhere his 2016 performance proved he did not belong. He’s been far better at second, profiled by the metrics as something like an average second baseman (though the eye test would suggest there’s still room for improvement). His production at the plate has paid dividends, however. A doubles machine in the minors, Drury has kept it up as his 12 doubles are tied for fourth most in the majors, to go along with four homers. For a second-year player at the league-minimum salary, that’s just fine.
Nick Ahmed has been a beneficiary of Owings’ defensive versatility, stealing starts at shortstop when CO has lined up in the outfield or received the occasional day off. No surprise, he’s still a wizard with the glove and he’s still crushing left-handed pitchers. By seeing fewer righties, his offensive numbers are better overall as the team is using him in accordance to his strengths.
Had the Diamondbacks kept Jean Segura, he’d have likely played at second with Owings getting the majority of the work at shortstop and Ahmed filling in. Brandon Drury’s role would have been tough to define. But by dealing Segura, they’ve been able to employ three players and maintain a nearly identical level of production, doing so at a lower cost to the team’s payroll, and even boosting defensive performance in the outfield on occasion. It’s taken some maneuvering, but the setup has worked.
Oh yeah, they got Taijuan Walker, too. Though he just landed on the fancy new 10-day DL with a blister, Walker’s been everything the Diamondbacks could have hoped. He’s enjoying a career-high in ground ball rate and has magically yielded just four home runs in nine starts. Walker is on pace to match his career-high in fWAR by the All-Star Break, provided he stays healthy and effective. He’s been excellent overall, and even if there’s some luck mixed in, there’s no denying that this is just the type of progression that the D-backs’ brass was hoping for when they acquired the talented young righty.
Perhaps best of all, the Diamondbacks were able to turn one season of Segura, who will be a free agent at the season’s end, into four years of Walker. It also cost them Mitch Haniger, a guy they surely didn’t want to see go, but needed to include to make the deal. For what it’s worth, Haniger had been stellar in 21 games, but has been on the shelf for several weeks with an oblique injury. Ketel Marte came to Arizona in the deal and all he’s done since coming over and getting assigned to AAA Reno is lead the Pacific Coast League in hits all season long. Put bluntly, we’re a long way from being able to evaluate who “won” the trade — there are a lot of moving pieces here — but neither team got stiffed and neither team is running away with their side of the ledger. (Note: the author’s two favorite teams are Arizona and Seattle, so a win-win estimate may be pure hogwash and rooted in bias).
But perhaps the moral of the story is this: the team hasn’t skipped a beat since making the move. A lot of that is on Chris Owings for turning into the guy we’ve long waited for him to be while Nick Ahmed provides steady support and Brandon Drury grows. Taijuan Walker has surrendered three or fewer earned runs in seven of his nine starts and avoided ever getting truly shelled. The team’s been in a position to win the games he’s pitched. The deck chairs have been rearranged, but perhaps they’re comfier this way. It’s a cheaper configuration and there’s more team control involved. Mike Hazen’s first big trade may not look like a boon on paper at this way-too-early stage, but it’s surely getting the job done.
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