Mariners Deal for Shortstop

The Seattle Mariners had a need at shortstop and went out and acquired one Wednesday.

Jean Segura is a nice player coming off a 5-win season in Arizona where he posted a 126 wRC+ thanks to above-average power and average defense.

To get Segura, and outfielder Mitch Haniger along with left-hander Zac Curtis, it cost the Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte, the club’s shortstop a year ago.

Segura, 27 in March, is arbitration eligible for the second time this winter after making $2.6 million in 2016. He’ll likely lanmd in the $4-5 million range for 2017.

He can play the position despite times when it appears he’d be a better fit at second base. There’s enough arm strength and foot speed to suggest his range, judged by the metrics, are probably correct and dependable, suggesting he belongs in the six-hole.

He’s a right-handed batter who generates good leverage despite standing just 5-foot-11 and his above-average bat speed and short swing help him make consistent hard contact that led to a career-best 19.1 percent line drive rate last season.

Segura is immediately the best option to start 2017 as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter but could bat in the No. 2 spot as well, ahead of the left-handed hitting Robinson Cano.

The club was missing a more stable option at shortstop and they got one in Segura, despite his flaws. What are those flaws?

He’s had two good seasons sandwiched around two poor ones but always has made contact and some adjustments he made in 2015 began to work last season, most notably a more aggressive swing in fastball counts and a more balanced stance he’s been able to hold through contact.

Haniger, 26 in December, isn’t a premium prospect but he rebounded from a poor 2015 to rake at two stops in the minors before making his big-league debut this summer. He’s an average glove with a plus arm, but he has a chance to hit .260 with around league average on-base marks, if not better, to go with solid-average power.

Haniger could help as early as next season, though handing him a starting gig out of spring training — i.e. this Ben Gamel bull — isn’t wise for a team with plans to win 90-plus games.

Curtis is a pure reliever without the raw stuff to pitch in piss-your-pants situations. The southpaw typically sits 90-92 mph with a plus slider and occasional straight changeup. At 5-foot-9 he bravely works up in the zone with late life on the fastball, but it’s not necessarily an approach that will play well in the big leagues.

For two years of Segura plus the two prospects, the Mariners ship Walker and Marte to Arizona; two young players with four and five years of control, respectively. Walker is the big ticket here for Arizona.

The Diamondbacks can be patient this season, so perhaps they start out Walker in their bullpen in long stints, including some of the high-leverage variety, so he can maximize his value and better put to the test any adjustments the staff installs on the side.

Walker will sit 93-95 and touch 97 with terrific life and occasional gloveside run, but the heavy sink on the pitch has been gone for three years and his secondary stuff is as inconsistent as DirecTV in a snowstorm in Alaska.

There’s still big upside there, but the Mariners are out of time to go into 2017 hoping on so many unproven players to break out and perform at a high level.

Marte has all the physical tools to be a finge-average glove at shortstop, but with no margin for error, and to make enough contact to be a regular. He fits better at second — or even center field — but it’s his bat that’s truly held him back thus far. It’s early, however, and he has made strides, specifically in the areas of swing mechanics and maturity. He lost his approach last summer and never got it back.

He runs well, handles the bat well and has evened out his abilities from both sides of the plate. I imagine Arizona sticks with Nick Ahmed at shortstop and uses Marte at second base or he starts 2017 in the minors.

Seattle did pretty well here in adding Segura, and despite the steep price, it’s a move Jerry Dipoto had to make once the opportunity was presented.

The Mariners now have five positions on the field locked up for next season by average or better players — Cano at second base, Nelson Cruz at DH, Kyle Seager at third base, Leonys Martin in center and now Segura at shortstop.

There are now at least two holes in the Mariners’ starting rotation to address, plus perhaps another outfield piece and a bullpen arm or two, but the club is better after this trade.

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Jason A. Churchill

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