The Mariners reportedly agreed to pay $1 million to Segura to waive his full no-trade clause, allowing him to be traded for the fourth time in his career, this time by M's general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Just about a year and a half ago, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon at Safeco Field in early June 2017, Jean Segura was clad in an impeccable and expensive suit instead of his uniform. While the Mariners were preparing to play the Twins that evening, Segura took time out of his pregame routine to dress up and attend a news conference to announce that he had signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension.
Always a little standoffish with the media and public spotlight, the shortstop was all smiles. He had found the stability in a game that had turned him into a nomad.
“For me, this is a good opportunity to be here a long time,” he said. “I feel thankful. I just want to be a Mariner for the next six years. What else could I need? I have my beautiful family, my great teammates and great people behind me. It’s the best gift I’ve ever received in my life.”
And now he’s joining his fifth organization. His time with the Mariners has ended after two seasons and 269 games. On Monday morning, the Mariners reportedly agreed to pay $1 million to Segura to waive his full no-trade clause attached to that contract, allowing general manager Jerry Dipoto to trade him and relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman Carlos Santana and shortstop J.P. Crawford.
“Carlos Santana has been among the most durable players in the Big Leagues over the last 8 years and has been a fixture in the middle of lineups during that time,” Dipoto said in a statement. “He gets on base, he does damage at the plate and is quite an underrated first baseman. J.P. Crawford gives us a young shortstop, who is very athletic and fills up the toolbox; he hits, he runs, he plays defense, he throws, he has power. For the last 4 years running, he’s been among the top-20 prospects in baseball.”
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The team announced the trade Monday afternoon about two hours after announcing their blockbuster, seven-player trade with the Mets. There was a fair amount of disappointment in the return for the Mariners. There was some belief that Segura would yield more in a trade.
“If the market were higher, we would have made a higher level trade,” Dipoto said. “J.P. Crawford was the target for us in that trade. And bringing back a guy like Carlos Santana gave us multiple things. It gave us a consistent on-base and slugging threat in the middle of the order. And maybe as importantly, it gave us one of the more well-respected clubhouse leader types in the league.”
It’s the fourth time in his career that Segura has been traded. That itinerant nature that took him from the Angels to the Brewers to the Diamondbacks and then the Mariners. It was a reason he demanded that no-trade clause. He was tired of changing teams. But with close friend Robinson Cano having been traded to the Mets and the Mariners on the verge of some multiple losing seasons in a rebuild, it was an easy choice for Segura to go to an organization that has legitimate playoff aspirations and the hitter-friendly confines of Citizen’s Bank Park.
Segura, who turns 29 in March, hit .304 with a .755 OPS, 29 doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 63 RBI in 144 games while being named to the American League All-Star team. He helped carry the Mariners offense along with Mitch Haniger in the aftermath of Cano’s 80-game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball-MLBPA joint drug testing agreement. But it wasn’t a perfect season. Segura experienced a significant drop off in the second half of the season.
From the beginning of the season to July 1, he hit .336 with an .841 OPS, 23 doubles, six homers and 45 RBIs in 77 games.
From July 1 to the end of the season, he hit .264 with a .652 OPS, six doubles, a triple, four homers and 18 RBIs in 67 games.
Beyond the decline in on-field play, he irritated manager Scott Servais for sitting out a key series in Oakland with a shin bruise. There was also the much-publicized clubhouse altercation with Dee Gordon. Segura was removed from a game in late September by Servais for not hustling and scoring from a second on a two-out base hit.
In two seasons with the Mariners, he hit .302 with a .765 OPS.
With that extension he signed, he’s under contract for the next four seasons and is owed just under $60 million. Why not just keep him?
“As we take a step back here in 2019 and geared toward cresting in 2021, well, by 2021, well now Jean is 31 years old and going to be 32 in the final two years of his contract,” Dipoto said. “At that point, we have to start asking ourselves questions about what position he’s going to be playing and what we need around him. He would have had to have been the player we were building our club around in order to make sense of that. And that’s not the direction we wanted to go. We opted to build around a younger core.”
Dipoto signed Nicasio last offseason to be the setup man for Edwin Diaz. But the veteran right-hander struggled at times and dealt with a nagging injury that eventually required surgery, ending his season early. Nicasio posted a 1-6 record and 6.00 ERA in 46 appearances. He’s owed $9.25 million in 2019.
Pazos’ inclusion in the deal is curious but speaks to his struggles and lost velocity at the end of last season. The big lefty’s fastball slowly deteriorated from upper 90s down to low 90s and still no ability to consistently spot what was labeled an average breaking ball. The Mariners said publicly that it was a mechanical issue that led to the decrease, but some people in the organization worried that he was dealing with an injury. Pazos would have made the MLB minimum in 2019 but became arbitration eligible in 2020.
That money owed to Segura and Nicasio — approximately $68 million — is why the Mariners acquired Santana, 32, in the deal. The veteran first baseman/designated hitter would help offset some of that salary. Per Spotrac, Santana is owed just over $40 million over the remaining two years of his contract. He hit .229 with a .766 OPS, 28 doubles, two triples, 24 homers and 86 RBIs in 2018.
Given the Mariners situation, if Santana were to show any return to his previous production with the Indians, which earned him the big contract, the Mariners would almost certainly trade him if possible. They may also move him before the seasons begins.
Crawford, 23, was once considered a promising prospect for the Phillies. He’s kind of the centerpiece of a return that one opposing scout called “underwhelming.” Per Baseball America, he was the organization’s No. 1 prospect for four straight years (2014-2017) and the No. 6 overall prospect in all of baseball in 2015. But he’s struggled to adjust at the MLB level. He played in just 49 games with the Phillies this season, hitting .214 with a .712 OPS, six doubles, three triples, three homers and 12 RBI. In 72 games over the past two seasons, he’s hit .214 with a .692 OPS. The Mariners hope that the mature approach he’s maintained at the plate and a new organization will help him reach his potential.
“J.P. Crawford spent most of the last four years or all of the last four years regarded as one of the 20 best prospects in baseball,” Dipoto said. “Just 12 months ago, he entered 2018 season ranked somewhere between 10 and 20 in most grading systems. He’s still just 23 and despite the fact, he struggled, he did OPS .712 last year while he didn’t hit for a high average. He controls the strikezone. We feel like J.P. Crawford with a fresh start in Seattle and working with Perry Hill and given the opportunity to do the things he does, this is an exciting you player that we are thrilled to have.”