Former Halos prospect Segura proving worth on Crew
All-Star shortstop traded to Milwaukee for starter Greinke in 2012
MILWAUKEE -- Hindsight has done a number on the Angels with regard to their July 27, 2012, trade with the Brewers, which saw them send shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg to Milwaukee for Zack Greinke.
When the two clubs began a three-game series at Miller Park on Friday, the Brewers could puff out their chests as the clear winners.
Segura had a monster first half and became an All-Star in his first full season in the big leagues, Hellweg was recently named the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year and Pena has had a solid season in Double-A for the Brewers. The Angels, meanwhile, wound up getting almost nothing out of the deal. They didn't make the playoffs with Greinke on their staff, they didn't re-sign the ace over the winter -- hardly making much of an effort to do so, for that matter -- and would love to have the three guys they gave up in their 30th-ranked farm system.
Jerry Dipoto has some moves he's regretted in his 20 months as the Angels' general manager, but surprisingly, this is not one of them.
Looking back, Dipoto said, "I absolutely understand what the criteria was when we made the trade and why we made it."
To evaluate it fairly, he believes, you have to look at the Angels' situation at the time -- four games out of first place, leading the American League Wild Card race and in desperate need of starting pitching.
"With Jered Weaver on the mend [earlier in 2012], with Dan Haren and Ervin Santana having very up-and-down seasons, the separator for us was going to be adding someone who was healthy and consistent at the top of our rotation," Dipoto said. "To his credit, Zack Greinke delivered what we believed we were acquiring, and unfortunately, we didn't fulfill our promise as a team and fell short of the goal."
Greinke went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts with the Angels, but L.A. finished four games out of the final playoff spot in the American League and -- after shifting their focus to Josh Hamilton -- watched Greinke sign a six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers the following December.
Since then, Segura -- the key piece for the Brewers in the four-player trade -- has shown glimpses of stardom, with a .303/.336/.441 slash line, 12 homers, a National League-leading 38 stolen bases and surprisingly solid defense at shortstop heading into Friday's game.
"I feel like I just needed an opportunity, because I knew that I could play at this level," the 23-year-old said in Spanish. "I knew I could be a good player. I knew I could be an impact player. I knew I could do big things. When they give you the opportunity to play every day, it's different. You no longer have that fear of doing bad, and then you won't play the next day. Here, I know I'll be playing every day. That gives me a better attitude and helps me."
By the end of April 2012, Segura had no real path to the big leagues on the Angels. Second baseman Howie Kendrick had signed a four-year, $33.5 million extension three months earlier and the ink had just dried on shortstop Erick Aybar's four-year, $35 million deal, locking up both up-the-middle spots through at least 2015.
Segura was one of few chips in a downtrodden farm system that Dipoto could use to acquire the starting pitching the team needed down the stretch, and Segura himself became the ultimate beneficiary.
"When I found out they traded me, and when I found out who I was traded to, in all honesty, I was happy," Segura admitted.
"We weren't going to be able to re-sign [Greinke], so for us, with [Segura] and the way he's played, the future that he has, that alone makes it a great trade," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Hopefully, Hellweg comes along. Being named PCL Pitcher of the Year is a pretty good start with that. Pena did a nice job this year in Double-A. So, [that] trade, as of right now, it looks pretty great."
The verdict is still out on Hellweg (3.16 ERA, 1.47 WHIP in 22 Triple-A starts) and Pena (3.87 ERA, 1.39 WHIP in 26 Double-A starts). Both have power arms and a high upside, but both also have control issues. There are some questions about Segura, who has a .268/.297/.367 slash line with 46 strikeouts and 10 walks since the start of June.
Somewhere between what he did in the first two months and what he's done in the last three is who Segura truly is as a player. That's the general consensus. But, as one Angels scout said, "We simply did not grade him that high."
Aybar, who spent plenty of time playing with Segura in winter ball and Spring Training, did.
"The first time I saw him play in the Dominican, I noticed his talent," Aybar said in Spanish. "He runs a lot, hits and he can field. He's a good ballplayer, always has been."
The one thing Aybar told him he needed to improve on was his footwork at shortstop. Segura had a tendency to speed things up more than he needed to, especially considering his strong arm. This year, Aybar has noticed him a lot more relaxed, taking his time and consistently making routine plays.
"I'm very happy for his success," Dipoto said. "He's a good kid. He's done the right things. He's played very well. In the world of acquiring players the quality of Zack Greinke, you know you're giving up something to get him. And we knew the upside and potential of Jean Segura was very good. He's proving that to be true.
"But, again, hindsight being 20/20, when you go back and look at the trade, you have to remember where you were when you made it. I can't forget that. I also can look up and see how well Jean has played with the Brewers. Certainly wish we had him in our system."