Revisiting the Jean Segura-J.P. Crawford trade three years later
With most trades in Major League Baseball, three years is enough to properly assess who eventually got the better end of the deal. But even today, I go back and forth about whether trading JP Crawford for Jean Segura was in fact, a good deal for the Philadelphia Phillies.
A lack of off-season movement in Major League Baseball due to the ongoing labor stoppage now has me writing about it. If you’re not into discussing trades from three years ago, take it up with Rob Manfred, it’s not what I want to be writing about either.
In 2018, the Phillies acquired Jean Segura, relief pitcher Juan Nicasio and relief pitcher James Pazos from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for shortstop J.P. Crawford and first baseman Carlos Santana.
On the surface we should be able to simply compare statistics between the important pieces of a trade. However the Jean Segura and JP Crawford trade was not that simple.
Looking back at social media from the day of the trade, it seemed Phillies fans were generally in favor of the deal. In one day, former GM Matt Klentak had solved several of the most glaring issues facing his the Philadelphia Phillies. Issues that at the time, were largely seen as the reason for the first of two eventual September collapses under then first-year manager Gabe Kapler.
After leading their division with the second-best record in the National League one week into August, the Phillies went 16-33 over the final 49 games and finished with a losing record (80-82) for the sixth straight season.
Exacerbating the problem was the positional shit show occurring between newly acquired first basemen Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins. Santana who was in the first year of a 3yr/$60 million deal, positionally could only play first base. By virtue of his contract, he was penciled in ahead of fan-favorite Hoskins (making a minimum salary) at first base.
The ensuing experiment of playing Hoskins in left field was an absolute disaster. He was worth -3.0 dWAR. Watching in on a nightly basis felt even worse. In an attempt to get both players on the field at one time Gabe Kapler was most likely forced by Klentak to start Santana at third base where he was even worse than first.
Klentak’s analytics-led hubris led him to believe it was a wise decision to sink $20 million into Santana, a below-average defensive first baseman whose only value was connected to the DH in the American League.
Klentak was probably right in believing that Carlos Santana was undervalued. Forcing Rhys Hoskins, who finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017, into the outfield where he had never played, was extremely confounding then and looks borderline insane in 2022.
Through all of that, the truth is Carlos Santana’s offensive numbers in 2018 weren’t even that bad! He finished the season with an OPS of +105 and 2.0 WAR.
Carlos Santana was not worth $20 million, but a solid above-average player.
OK, so now that we have established how imperative it was at the time for the Phillies to shed Santana’s contract and end the messy experiment, let us look simply at the numbers head to head.
2019- .280/.323/.743 12/60 91 OPS+ 1.8 WAR $14.8 million
2020- .266/.347/.769 7/25 107 OPS + 1.2 WAR $14.8 million
2021- .290/.348/.784. 14/58 111 OPS+ 3.7 WAR $14.8 million
*Segura has 2 years remaining 14.8 mil in 2022 and a $17 mil team option in 2023.
2019- .226/.313/.684 7/46 OPS+ 86. 1.6 WAR $545k
2020- .255/.336/.674 2/24 OPS +91 1.6 WAR. $545k
2021- .273/.338/.715. 9/54 OPS+ 102 3.8 WAR $2.5 million
*Crawford is under club control for three more seasons and will make $4.25 million in 2022.
2019- .281/.397/.911 OPS +136. 4.6WAR $20 million
2020- .199/.349/.699 OPS +93. 1.0 WAR $20 million
Carlos Santana was flipped by Seattle back to Cleveland and he bounced back in a big way in 2019, making the All-Star team and finishing 16th in MVP voting. In 2020 he reverted back to the previous form shown in Philadelphia and in 2021 was a below-average big leaguer.
At first glance in acquiring Segura, The Phillies not only picked up additional payroll flexibility in the deal by committing to Segura for four years but got a long-coveted every-day middle infielder capable of making All-Star teams.
Crawford continued his slow offensive development since the trade. He can attribute most of his value to his glove-work, picking up a Gold Glove Award in the shortened 2020 season. 2021 was the first season Crawford posted above-average offensive production.
Segura is by far the better offensive player between the two other players, even after a well below average (+91 OPS) in 2019. He also hasn’t played shortstop since that same season, while providing average defense at second base.
Advanced metrics and old-time counting stats show that the two players have produced similar values over the past 3 seasons.
The eye test tells me that Segura is the better player and perhaps has the higher ceiling. But that ceiling was reached in Arizona and Seattle, not Philadelphia.
If Crawford continues his trend of offensive improvement he could become extremely valuable and flip the value of the trade back in the Mariners’ favor.
Gotta poll this one and leave it up to the readers. Let us know what you think.