Crew's rebuild takes step forward

Milwaukee's financial flexibility allows it to part with Segura

January 31st, 2016

Well, there go the Brewers. Throwing their weight around again. Or something like that.

Give David Stearns and Doug Melvin credit. The guys running the Brew Crew created so much financial flexibility with their trades since the middle of 2015 that they were able to benefit by becoming the team that met the D-backs' desire to part with Aaron Hill.

You probably didn't expect the Brewers to be a team that would take on the 33-year-old Hill and much of the $12 million he's owed this season. But by doing so, Stearns added Chase Anderson, a starter with five years' control, and a highly regarded 19-year-old middle infielder, Isan Diaz.

Well, it wasn't quite that easy. The D-backs are also getting 2013 All-Star Jean Segura, who had been on track to return for a fourth season as Milwaukee's shortstop. But the key to this deal happening was the Brewers having cut about $40 million off their payroll in a rebuilding process forced upon them by the success of the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs.

Arizona had been shopping Hill as a means of cutting its payroll in the aftermath of the Zack Greinke signing. He had slipped behind Chris Owings on the depth chart at second base. The D-backs had been interested in free agent Howie Kendrick, who re-signed with the Dodgers on Friday, but wanted to deal Hill first.

They couldn't do that in time, but the Brewers presented them a reasonable option. The D-backs agreed to send $5.5 million to Milwaukee alongside Hill, Anderson and Diaz, according to a report by the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro, and for that they are getting a potentially valuable piece in Segura, along with a depth piece for the pitching staff in Tyler Wagner. Wagner led the Southern League in ERA as a 24-year-old, but he is a command pitcher whose stuff will pale against others in the D-backs' stable of young arms. The Crew would be hyping him, not trading him, if he had a bigger arm.

Segura, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time this year, is at a crossroads in his career. The Brewers got him from the Angels in their Greinke trade and he delivered a terrific season in 2013. But Segura wasn't nearly the same dynamic player the past two seasons, and his frustration became evident. He lost his plate discipline entirely, walking only 13 times in 584 plate appearances last season.

Arizona isn't sure what it will do with Segura. While he may get a chance to steal the shortstop job away from Nick Ahmed, there's a greater likelihood of him getting time at second base. Owings' .264 on-base percentage last season was a red flag for a team looking to contend with the Dodgers and Giants.

Segura is a better fit with a team trying to win than one rebuilding, especially given that Milwaukee is convinced that 21-year-old Orlando Arcia (ranked No. 6 in MLB Pipeline's Top 100) will be an impact shortstop in the very near future.

There's no reason the Brewers couldn't have stayed patient with Segura, however. They could have moved him over to second base and built around an up-the-middle combination of Arcia, Segura and 21-year-old center fielder Brett Phillips.

But Stearns is sticking with Scooter Gennett as his second baseman of the future. He hopes that future includes 30-start seasons from Anderson, whose increased ground-ball rate in 2015 was offset by a drop in his strikeout rate. He's a middle-of-the-rotation arm, at best, but he could prove to be an important bridge piece for an organization that doesn't know what to expect from any starters beyond Jimmy Nelson and maybe Taylor Jungmann.

Diaz, who was ranked as the D-backs' No. 14 prospect by MLB Pipeline, could wind up being the best player in the deal. A second-round pick in the 2014 Draft from Puerto Rico by way of Springfield, Mass., he tore up the Rookie-level Pioneer League last season, earning MVP honors. Diaz is only 5-foot-10, but he has impressive pop as well as the quickness to remain in the middle infield. He's a long way from Milwaukee, but he's exactly the kind of player a rebuilding team wants.

This was a smart bit of business on Stearns' part. He had already traded for Jonathan Villar, who will play shortstop until Arcia is ready. Hill and Gennett could easily platoon at second base this season, the hope being that Hill will play well enough to create a midseason market. Hill could also get a look at third, where Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini and Hernan Perez are the leading contenders to fill Aramis Ramirez's old spot.

Segura is a good bet to get 400-600 plate appearances for Arizona. He could be a major upgrade in the middle infield, but .266 career hitters who refuse to take walks come with no guarantees. It's up to Segura to prove the D-backs made the right move by trading for him.