The Mariners made a five-player deal on Wednesday evening, acquiring talented shorstop Jean Segura and two other players from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte.
General manager Jerry Dipoto has been searching for a productive, consistent shortstop and a presence at the top of the Mariners’ lineup since the middle of last season. On Wednesday evening, he got both in one player, but it came at a hefty price.
In a five-player trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle acquired talented shortstop and leadoff hitter Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-handed pitcher Zac Curtis in exchange for right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.
To make room for the three players add to their 40-man roster, the Mariners designated switch-pitcher Pat Venditte for assignment.
Dipoto and new Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen first discussed the possibility of the deal at the MLB GM meetings in Arizona in early November. Talks resumed last week.
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Segura and Walker were obviously the marquee players in the deal.
“Segura was one of the premiere offensive players in the Majors last season,” Dipoto said. “His combination of average, power and speed is extremely difficult to find, especially at a position like shortstop and at the top of our lineup. We believe pairing him with Robinson Canó gives us tremendous offensive potential in the middle of our infield.”
Segura, who turns 27 on March 17, had an outstanding year for Arizona, hitting .319 with an .867 on-base plus slugging percentage, 41 doubles, seven triples, 20 home runs, 64 RBI and 33 steals in 153 games. Segura hit leadoff in 147 games for Arizona, ranking first in hits (198), tied for first in triples (7), second in total bases (310), tied for second in homers (20), third in RBI (63) and fifth in average (.319) among NL leadoff hitters.
Segura is arbitration eligible and projected to make $7.3 million next season. The Mariners will have club control of Segura through the 2018 season.
(From Fangraphs … NL leaders)
“Hitting at the top of our lineup, he gives us a different dynamic than we had at any point in 2016,” Dipoto said. “We really wanted to upgrade the way things worked at the top of our lineup and Jean Segura does this.”
Segura played with the Brewers for four seasons and then was traded to the Diamondbacks prior to the 2016 season. He was an all-star in 2013 and seemed on the verge of blossoming into a star in Milwaukee until he was struck by a heart-breaking personal tragedy. In July of 2014, Segura’s infant son, Janniel, passed away at nine months old. He took some time away from the Brewers to mourn the loss of his son. After returning, he was admittedly not the same player.
“After having dealt with a real personal tragedy, he was able to bounce back and a change of scenery did him a world of good and we saw his true talent come through,” Dipoto said.
Haniger, who turns 26 on Dec. 23, made his MLB debut on Aug. 16 vs. Mets, going 2-for-4 with a double, triple and three RB. He appeared in 34 big league games, hitting .229 (25-for-109) with two doubles, a triple, five homers and 17 RBI. He was also named Arizona’s minor league player of the year, hitting .321 with 34 doubles, five triples, 25 homers and 94 RBI combined between the Class AA and Class AAA level.
“We see Haniger as a high-ceiling prospect who projects to join our outfield as soon as next season, while Zac Curtis’ track record in the minors gives us great confidence in his future as a big league pitcher,” Dipoto said.
Curtis, 24, made 21 appearances with Arizona, going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. Over 3 minor league seasons, he’s made 104 relief appearance, posting 7-6 with 53 saves and a 1.95 ERA. He has limited opponents to a .199 average, while striking out 169. Curtis’ 53 saves over the last 3 seasons, are the 9th-most among all minor league players.
To get Segura, the Mariners had to give up one of their top young pitchers in Walker at age 24. The right-hander made 25 starts, going 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA, while dealing with a foot injury much of the season. Blessed with a mid- to high-90s fastball, Walker had been ticketed for a spot near the top of the rotation since being selected with the 43rd pick of the 2010 MLB draft. He never quite reached that potential, but a late-season commitment to a mechanical change in his delivery seemed to provide hope for a more consistent 2017 season.
“It’s always hard when you give up talent like Taijuan,” Dipoto said. “You have to give to get and in this case we feel like we are getting a little bit more of a known commodity and we understand that Taijuan takes with him the upside to achieve something greater than we’ve seen. I know that’s real. At some point, Tai is going to put it all together and he will find himself as a pitcher. We just feel like that at this point and this time, this trade made more sense where our roster is.”
Walker had big league stints over the last four seasons, posting a 22-22 record with a 4.18 ERA in 62 starts and three relief appearances.
Marte, 23, was the Mariners’ opening day shortstop, and played in 119 games this season, dealing with three separate stints on the disabled list. He hit .259 with 21 doubles, two triples, a home run and 33 RBI. But an on-base percentage of .287 and a regressed approach at the plate and inconsistent play in the field had Dipoto making calls in July of last season to find a more reliable option.
With Walker’s departure, the Mariners’ projected starting rotation consists of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Ariel Miranda and Nathan Karns. Beyond that five, the organization has some depth in younger prospects like Andrew Moore. But realistically, they will have to add a legitimate No. 4-5 starter at least while also looking at some veterans on minor league contracts.
“We are going to look to the free agent market,” Dipoto said. “We are certainly not opposed at potential for trades. We still feel like in the big picture that we are 10-11 deep with guys that we feel secure in starting a Major League game. We are comfortable with that group,but we’d like to augment it.”