For much of the off-season, Jean Segura has been seen as the next man out for the Brewers. That prediction finally came true tonight, as he and prospect Tyler Wagner were shipped to Arizona in return for three players and cash.
After a very promising 2013, Segura had largely disappointed on the offensive side of things, posting a .615 OPS between 2014 and ’15. Wagner was one of the Brewers top performing prospects in 2015, posting a 2.25 ERA with AA Biloxi, though he was shelled in a few Major League starts.
In return, the Brewers got big leaguers Aaron Hill and Chase Anderson, and teenage prospect Isan Diaz. Hill is a bat-first second baseman who hasn’t hit like one the last two years. As recently as 2012, Hill hit 26 home runs from the keystone, with an OPS of .882. From 2014-15, however, he has hit just 16 homers in 894 plate appearances with a .648 OPS.
Hill will be 34 by the start of the 2016 season, and likely won’t regain the magic his offensive profile once had. Through all of that negativity, however, Hill’s passable defense led him to be about as valuable as Jean Segura in 2015, by fWAR. In fact, the D-Backs have said that they will move Segura to second as their starter, where, barring a return to 2013 form, he’ll be about as valuable as Hill was.
Look for Hill to platoon with Scooter Gennett, while potentially taking more at-bats if he heats up. Ideally, I’m sure, the Brewers would like him to produce so they can flip him to a new team at the trade deadline.
This move leaves the Brewers with three second basemen in Hill, Gennett, and Rule-5 draft pick Colin Walsh, though Hill and Walsh have spent some time at third, and Walsh has played some left field. Slotting Hill in at the hot corner from time to time could also help maximize his value at the trade deadline.
Anderson is a right-handed pitcher with 267 Major League innings and a 4.18 ERA, who relies on a plus changeup to keep hitters off of his low-90s fastball. He also features a curveball that is apparently just OK. He is essentially where a pessimist would place Wagner’s Big League ceiling.
There has been some concern that Wagner would have razor thin margins for error due to fringy stuff. It’s very possible that GM David Stearns was already not a big believer in Wagner, making the trade a no-brainer.
Anderson has proven over two seasons that he can be the fifth man in a Major League rotation, and while the Brewers have plenty of young arms, they could use more Big League guarantees.
Clearly, the Diamondbacks are risking greater bust potential for a higher ceiling, and the reverse makes sense for the Crew. For all the excitement we rightfully feel about the Brewers farm system, they do need to fill a Major League roster in 2016. But the Crew didn’t just trade higher risk for higher floor, they also got a solid prospect in the deal.
FanGraphs head scout, Dan Farnsworth, ranked 2B/SS Isan Diaz the Diamondbacks 13th best prospect in November, and had this to say about the young lefty:
"Diaz put up some impressive numbers in rookie ball, showing off some power, speed on the bases, and the ability to get the bat on the ball. His future will become more clear as he starts facing more advanced pitchers as soon as this season, but he has some really athletic moves in the batter’s box that stand out from players his age."
“Impressive numbers” is a bit of an understatement. In 2015, Diaz slashed .360/.436/.640 with 13 home runs in just 312 plate appearances, and won the MVP award for the Pioneer league. The 19 year old was 69 percent better than league average offensively, with a 10.9% walk rate.
For reference, Paul Goldschmidt was 64% better than league average in 2015 in the Majors. And while Diaz tore up rookie ball, the Brewers took notice:
Diaz also cut his strikeouts from his rough 2014 season, when he hit just .187 and K’d 26.4% of the time. Farnsworth also projected the likely ceiling of Diaz’s tools as average across the board, and above-average in the field. This projection puts him right in line with the Brewers top second base prospect, Javier Betancourt. Diaz played mostly at shortstop in 2015, and Stearns reportedly wants him to stick there for the time being, with scouts feeling he’ll be a better fit at second.
This is yet another positive trade by David Stearns, with the GM both strengthening a minor league position of need and adding Major League depth.