CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Upon being told that the Seattle Mariners were trading him, Jean Segura went live on Instagram, cranked the volume of the music in his car, and began to dance.
Clearly, he approved of the deal.
Left unsaid, however, was whether Segura was happier about joining the Phillies or simply to be leaving the Mariners, for whom he played shortstop for two seasons and went to the All-Star Game last year but also brawled with teammate Dee Gordon in the clubhouse before a game last September.
“I was more happy because I’m getting an opportunity to win,” Segura said Saturday, as he reported to spring training and made his first public comments since the Dec. 3 trade.
“Seattle is over. Now I’m in Philly. I know for sure people are going to ask me what happened in Seattle. They had their problems. Every team has their problems. Now I’m with the Phillies and I’m looking forward.”
First, though, a look back. Segura, who will turn 29 on opening day, has played an average of 143 games per season since 2013. He has 981 hits over that span, more than Mike Trout (978), Nolan Arenado (975), and Freddie Freeman (970) despite playing in fewer games than each. Last season, he had the majors’ fifth-highest rate of making contact (88.3 percent), consistent with his 85.7 percent career mark, and he’s signed through 2022.
Yet when the season begins, Segura will be playing for his fourth team in five years.
“Every team that I’ve been on, they’ve been rebuilding,” Segura said. “The Phillies are not rebuilding.”
The Mariners surely are. Before they dealt Segura, they decimated the roster of a team that won 89 games last season by shipping catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays, left-hander James Paxton to the New York Yankees, reliever Alex Colome to the Chicago White Sox, and closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano to the New York Mets. Segura, who is close friends with Cano, wasn’t going to be left behind to turn out the lights.
Phillies officials insist they did pre-trade homework on Segura, including the altercation with Gordon. There are two sides to every story, and Segura chose not to get into his on Saturday. But the Phillies believe the fight stemmed from Segura’s being angry about a misplayed fly ball in center field one night earlier, a play that prompted Mariners manager Scott Servais to remove Gordon from the game.
“I don’t like to fight,” Segura said. “There were a lot of people coming and saying I was the one fighting, but they don’t know what was happening. They don’t know what was going on. I don’t want people to recognize that I’m a trouble guy in the clubhouse. I never intended to fight nobody in baseball. If a fight comes to you, as a grown man, you’re not going let it by. But it’s over. I’m here now with new guys.”
Indeed, the Phillies are eager to give Segura a clean slate and, as manager Gabe Kapler said, “put him in really good positions to succeed.” To do so, Kapler has sought feedback from Segura’s agent, Nez Balelo, who coincidentally helped teach Kapler how to hit nearly 30 years ago.
“I think it’s worth noting that he’s going to be supported with a lot of effort -- both from [new infield coach Bobby Dickerson’s] perspective, from my perspective, from our medical and our strength-and-conditioning staff’s perspective. We are going to give him the opportunity to be great.”
By his nature, Segura figures to bring a different dynamic to the offense. Rhys Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, and newcomer Andrew McCutchen are known for their patience at the plate, yet too many of the Phillies’ long at-bats last season ended fruitlessly. As a team, they finished with the fewest hits in the majors.
Segura is typically more aggressive but has solid bat-to-ball skills. He makes contact often enough that he led the National League with 203 hits in 2016 and has batted .308 over the last three seasons.
“I like to put the ball in play a lot,” Segura said, “because when you put the ball in play there’s a lot of opportunity to create runs, to get a base hit and be part of the game. That’s one of my biggest things: put the ball in play and make a lot of contact. With my speed, a lot of things can happen.”
Segura’s speed has resulted in six seasons with at least 20 steals and made him a fit to bat leadoff. But with Hernandez and McCutchen as leadoff options, Kapler views Segura as a potential No. 3 hitter. It’s all part of assimilating the shortstop into a new team.
But what if Segura crosses paths with Gordon again?
“We’re cool,” Segura said. “Brothers always fight. Sometimes you need to fight with your brother to be cool. I’m cool, man. I’m a great guy. Maybe social media says different. But if you get comfortable and talk to me about it you’ll see a different guy.”