The Phillies still have miles to go before they can be considered a surefire contender.
But they got better on Monday, thanks to the acquisition of two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura.
“He is one of the top shortstops in the game, both offensively and defensively,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said shortly after wrapping up the five-player deal with the Mariners (see story).
“Shortstop is an area where we didn’t get a great deal of production last. We think Jean Segura at shortstop moves the needle in terms of win expectancy, probably several wins, and I think that’s important as we try to turn an 80-win team into a playoff contender.
“Shortstop was an area we wanted to improve and we believe we’ve done that. Jean Segura is a really good major league player.”
Segura is an above-average defender.
But offense is what mostly made him attractive to the Phillies, who finished last in the NL in hits (1270) and batting average (.234) last season.
Segura, who turns 29 in March, is an excellent hitter, a contact machine who led the majors with 203 hits in 2016. He hit .308 with an .803 OPS over the last three seasons.
Last year, Phillies shortstops hit .235 with a .651 OPS. Those marks ranked 27th and 28th, respectively, in the majors.
“This was about making the 2019 Phillies better,” Klentak said.
The Phillies parted with former first-round pick J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana, both infielders. Santana’s departure clears the way for Rhys Hoskins to move back to first base after struggling defensively in left field in 2018. Hoskins was the worst leftfielder in baseball, according to several sources of advanced data. The Phils will be better defensively in the outfield in 2019.
And who will be in the outfield? Right now, the Phils have Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. More additions are expected.
“We’re still in a position where we can explore outfield improvements,” Klentak said.
Segura will make just under $15 million in 2019 and reliever Juan Nicasio, acquired in the deal as a Seattle salary dump, will make just over $9 million. The Phillies have plenty of financial flexibility and remain in the hunt for top free agents. They would like to sign Manny Machado to play third base. They would consider Bryce Harper for the outfield if they don’t sign Machado. They have made an offer to lefty Patrick Corbin, who is expected to pick a destination this week, and remain interested in relievers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller.
“We continue to explore deals in all areas knowing we have the payroll flexibility to address things either in a signing or a trade,” Klentak said.
He would not address specific free agents.
The addition of Segura means that Scott Kingery, who played shortstop most often last year, will move into the super-utility role that the team envisioned for him last spring. That could change if second baseman Cesar Hernandez is traded. In that case, Kingery would become the second baseman.
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