Shortstop obtained from Brewers along with pitching prospect Wagner
By Barry M. Bloom
PHOENIX -- The D-backs moved to shore up their middle infield and offensive strength Saturday by acquiring shortstop Jean Segura from the Brewers in a five-player trade that sent veteran second baseman Aaron Hill, right-handed starter Chase Anderson and Minor League shortstop Isan Diaz to Milwaukee.
Arizona also obtained right-hander Tyler Wagner, who led the Southern League with a 2.25 ERA last season pitching for Double-A Biloxi, and also made three big league appearances for Milwaukee. Wagner, who MLB.com rates as Arizona's No. 10 prospect, will give the D-backs added depth this spring in the competition for the back end of the rotation, said Dave Stewart, Arizona's general manager.
The Brewers also received cash in the deal to cover an unspecified amount of the $12 million due Hill in the final season of the veteran's three-year contract, although Stewart declined to discuss those details.
Stewart stopped short of saying that Segura would replace light-hitting incumbent Nick Ahmed at short, but Stewart said it would make for a spirited competition for the position when camp opens on Feb. 19.
"What I like most about [this deal] is that we added a guy who can give us some offense after we lost some," said Stewart, indicating that the acquisition of Segura came in the wake of having to ship outfielder Ender Inciarte to Atlanta in the deal for right-hander Shelby Miller. "[Segura] gives us a top-of-the-lineup hitter and some speed. And he's a good defensive player."
Segura, 25, will give Ahmed a run for his money. The newest D-back hit .252 during the past two seasons for Milwaukee, with a .285 on-base percentage. The shortstop position has been a revolving door of young players for the D-backs since Stephen Drew was traded to Oakland on Aug. 20, 2012.
After the 2014 season, the D-backs traded Didi Gregorius to the Yankees and installed Ahmed at short, moving Chris Owings to second base after Owings recovered from a right shoulder injury.
Both Ahmed and Owings had subpar offensive seasons in 2015, with Ahmed batting .226 with a .275 on-base percentage and Owings hitting .227 with a .264 on-base mark. Segura was a National League All-Star in 2013, when he batted .294 with 12 homers, 49 RBIs and 44 steals for the Brewers.
"I think we all had a little bit of discomfort where we are offensively," Stewart said. "We wanted to secure a little more offense if we could. Jean Segura has been a pretty good offensive player in the past. He was an All-Star. With an opportunity to make a move like that, we thought we would do it."
Segura came to the Brewers from the Angels as part of a July 2012 trade for Zack Greinke and broke through the following year by batting .325 in the first half. Hill will be 34 on March 21 and is entering his 12th big league season. His playing time and effectiveness have diminished during his five seasons with the D-backs, as he batted .230 in a part-time role this past season.
Stewart said he hasn't been trying to move Hill and his contract, but the opportunity arose in a deal new Brewers general manager David Stearns said on Saturday has been months in the making.
"This is actually a trade we've been working on for a long time," said Stearns, who was hired to replace Doug Melvin on Sept. 21. "Dave Stewart was one of the first general managers I spoke to when I got the position, about potential trades. We went through a number of different iterations and discussions with different players involved, and ultimately this concept picked up steam over the past week."
Stewart said the D-backs had been considering signing free-agent second baseman Howie Kendrick, but shied away from that proposition because they didn't want to lose a compensation Draft pick this year. The D-backs have already lost their first pick in the upcoming Draft after signing Greinke.
"Although we did have interest, we were still very cognizant of keeping our comp pick," Stewart said.
As far as Wagner is concerned, he made three Major League starts last season, one against the D-backs in Miller Park on May 31, when he lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits in what turned out to be a 7-6 Brewers victory.
Though Wagner will get a shot during Spring Training, Stewart sounded very much like the rotation is set, meaning Wagner may be ticketed for Triple-A Reno in the early going.
"You guys have probably heard me say this more times than not. Greinke, Miller, [Patrick Corbin], [Rubby De La Rosa] and [Robbie Ray] are the names that first come out of my mouth," Stewart said about the rotation. "Wagner adds depth. Last year, we used 12 starting pitchers. Hopefully this year we don't do that. But he's still an addition to the depth."
This trade creates infield instability for both teams. In Milwaukee, Hill will likely become the club's third baseman, and Jonathan Villar will keep the shortstop spot warm until skilled prospect Orlando Arcia is ready to make his big league debut. Ranked as Milwaukee's top prospect via MLB Pipeline, Arcia could impact mixed leagues with his plate skills and speed by the middle of the season. In the meantime, both Hill and Villar can help NL-only squads. In Arizona, the club will have to decide whether to use the speedy Segura or the slick-fielding Ahmed at the shortstop position. The D-backs could also ask Segura to adjust to second base, which would push Owings (.227 average in 2015) to a reserve role. Because of the uncertainty, Segura is a risky option for mixed-league squads.
On the mound, the picture is clearer. For the Brewers, Anderson will give the team a reliable starter in an unsettled rotation. The right-hander is unlikely to dent mixed-league lineups, but he can help NL-only owners. For the D-backs, Anderson's departure should ensure Ray a spot in the Opening Day rotation. Ray made strides last season by posting a 3.52 ERA and an 8.4 K/9 rate, and additional improvements could make him a mixed-league contributor.