It is not easy to admit you were wrong and, truth be told, Matt Klentak has not actually spoken those words publicly. The Phillies general manager did, however, do something far more important Monday when he completed the trade that will bring Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura to the Phillies.
He acted on some of his 2018 mistakes and set in motion what promises to be a fascinating and fruitful offseason for the Phillies.
With his first major trade as a GM expected to oversee a championship contending team, Klentak significantly strengthened the Phillies up the middle while admitting he made a $60 million mistake in signing Carlos Santana last offseason. The Phillies also erroneously handed rookie J.P. Crawford the starting shortstop job before the former first-round pick had proved he was ready to be in the big leagues. It was a big part of the recipe for the Phillies’ multitude of defensive deficiencies that left them with the title of worst defensive team in the National League, according to FanGraphs.com.
But after his deal with the salary-dumping Mariners, the Phillies have one of the best all-around shortstops in baseball, not to mention some help in the bullpen. In addition to Segura, Klentak acquired relievers James Pazos and Juan Nicasio. Pazos, a lefty, had a strong 2018 season while Nicasio struggled after a solid 2017 season that included a two-game cameo appearance with the Phillies. Of equal importance to the additions, Klentak created a vacancy at first base that can be immediately filled by Rhys Hoskins, who according to both the eye test and advanced defensive metrics was a disaster in left field last season.
Much work, of course, still needs to be done, but the acquisition of Segura creates a clearer focus about where Klentak and the Phillies will go from here. They have not had a shortstop of Segura’s quality since Jimmy Rollins was in his prime. Based on Segura’s existing contract, they should have him for a long time.
Segura, 28, will be paid $59.4 million through the next four seasons. The deal includes a $17 million option with a $1 million buyout in 2023. Even if the Phillies pay him that $17 million, the total of his contract will be $76.4 million, a fraction of what it would have cost to sign Manny Machado.
That’s not to say Segura is nearly the offensive player that Machado has been or likely will be. But, according to FanGraphs.com, he was a much better defensive shortstop than Machado last season and is certainly among the top 10 offensive shortstops in baseball during an era in which there are some sensational ones.
Segura, a Dominican Republic native, has come into his own the last three seasons, hitting .308 (the highest average among big-league shortstops in that span) with a .353 on-base percentage (second only to Houston’s Carlos Correa) and an .803 OPS. He has 100 doubles, 41 home runs, and 75 stolen bases since 2016. This is a guy who can make an offense go and does not strike out often. In fact, his 10.9 percent strikeout rate was the fourth lowest in baseball last season.
“A team that really didn’t get much production out of shortstop last season, to add an All-Star ... like Jean Segura moves the needle quite a bit -- probably several wins,” Klentak said during a conference call.
Segura comes with some baggage.
“He’s a really good player, but he has had some problems with his teammates,” a baseball source said. “A very moody guy, but a very good player.”
That’s likely a reference to the September clubhouse fight between Segura and Mariners teammate Dee Gordon, who had dropped a routine fly ball the night before. Stuff like that happens, especially when a team goes through a late-season collapse like the one the Mariners endured. To me, fighting means they at least both cared.
There’s wild speculation that the Phillies could still be in the market for Machado and Bryce Harper as well as premier free-agent starting pitcher Patrick Corbin, but that seems both unlikely and unwise, especially if you want to keep a future eye on Mike Trout. The hope going forward should be that the Phillies can persuade Harper to come to Philadelphia while letting Machado go elsewhere. The rest of the John Middleton/Buck brothers money can go to Corbin or one of the other top starting pitchers still on the free-agent market.
If the Phillies had an infield of Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, Segura, and Maikel Franco, they would be fine. Hernandez, despite a terrible second half, still finished with a .356 on-base percentage that ranked fifth among all qualifying second basemen, and Franco hit .298 with an .862 OPS in his final 68 games. Put him behind four guys with on-base percentages of .350 or higher and he should see more pitches to hit than at any other time in his career.
Scott Kingery, assuming he improves from last year, could be the super utility guy the Phillies thought he would be last season. An outfield of Harper, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Roman Quinn would also present a nice combination of power and speed.
Of course, the baseball offseason is still in its infancy and a lot is going to happen before the Phillies arrive in Clearwater, Fla., a little more than two months from now. At least in his first step to the plate, Klentak has connected for an extra-base hit with the addition of Segura and the subtractions of Santana and Crawford.