Howie Kendrick, Jean Segura, and Arizona’s Latest Mistake

Over the weekend, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks made a pair of related transactions. On Friday night, after failing to find a suitor due to the specter of a potential lost draft choice, Howie Kendrick re-signed with the Dodgers for a relative pittance; $20 million over the next two years. Given that Kendrick turned down the qualifying offer, which would have guaranteed him $15.8 million for just the 2016 season alone, Kendrick had to settle for far less than he thought he would get this off-season, and at that price, the Dodgers decided the value was too good to pass up, even though they didn’t really need another infielder.

Kendrick is better than Chase Utley and he should make the team better in both 2016 and 2017; however, they did surrender the possibility of obtaining a compensation pick if another team had eventually decided he was too good to pass up at that price as well.

For a good chunk of the winter, the assumption was that a team would make that choice, and for the last few months, the Dimaondbacks looked liked the obvious fit. General manager Dave Stewart publicly talked about his desire to add some offense at the top of the order to replace Ender Inciarte, and some combination of Chris Owings and Aaron Hill didn’t inspire a lot of confidence that second base was going to be well-handled in 2016. The D-Backs had talks with Kendrick, and had tried to trade for Brandon Phillips, so it was clear that they wanted to make a move for a more established second baseman, pushing Owings into the utility role that he’s probably better suited for.

But, after having surrendered the 13th pick to sign Zack Greinke, the Diamondbacks became fiercely protective of the 39th overall pick, a competitive-balance selection they were awarded that they would have to surrender if they signed Kendrick (or Ian Desmond, another free agent would could have helped them). Stewart even stated outright that they weren’t going to give up that pick:

“We’re not going to give up the pick,” Stewart said of the D-backs, who have the 39th selection (Competitive Balance Round A). “It’s just tough after we’ve already given up our first pick. To give up our top two picks, that would be difficult for us to do.”

So, in lieu of signing Kendrick and losing the 39th pick of the draft, the team pivoted on Saturday, making a trade to acquire Jean Segura from the Brewers. The deal sent Aaron Hill — but only half of his contract, as the Diamondbacks remain on the hook for $5.5 million of the $12 million he’s owed in 2016 — to Milwaukee along with starting pitcher Chase Anderson and infield prospect Isan Diaz. Segura, who has played shortstop in Milwaukee, is being brought in to ostensibly compete with Nick Ahmed for the starting job in Arizona, but given Ahmed’s defensive wizardry and Segura’s average-at-best glove at the position, it seems pretty obvious that Segura should shift over to second base.

So instead of giving up the 39th pick in the draft to sign Kendrick, the team gave up a major league starting pitcher and a quality prospect to trade for Segura. There are two problems with this.

1. Anderson and Diaz may each have more value than the compensation pick.

2. Howie Kendrick is good. Jean Segura is bad.

Let’s deal first with the acquisition cost of the two options. The Diamondbacks now seem to be putting a pretty high value on the 39th pick, and it is a valuable asset, but the net value of a pick in that range is somewhere in the range of $5 to $10 million. We’ve seen teams buy draft picks before — the Dodgers effectively bought the 74th pick in last year’s draft for $2.75 million by taking on Ryan Webb’s contract before immediately DFA’ing him — and of course the Diamondbacks were involved in the Touki Toussaint/Bronson Arroyo deal, and then they traded Dansby Swanson just a few months after taking him #1 overall, so the organization’s love of draft picks seems to be a very recent development.

But instead of surrendering the 39th pick, they decided to trade Anderson and Diaz, a depth-starter who probably wouldn’t have cracked their opening day rotation and a prospect who spent last year in rookie ball. Except that Diaz’s performance in rookie ball makes him a very interesting prospect — he ranked 69th on KATOH’s Top 100, for instance — and likely nearly as valuable as anyone the team would be able to get with the 39th pick this summer. Dan Farnsworth graded Diaz as a 45+ FV prospect, making him roughly equivalent to a back-end first round selection.

And while Anderson might just be a “depth starter” due to his lack of stuff, he’s been roughly a league average starting pitcher during his first couple of years in the majors, and projects to perform around that level going forward. Without Anderson around to serve as the team’s sixth starter, the club will now be relying on Archie Bradley, Zach Godley, and Josh Collmenter when the team needs to replace someone in their rotation, and so there is a loss in expected performance even if Anderson wouldn’t have begun the year in the rotation. No one gets through a season with just five starters anymore, and Anderson would have been able to help Arizona this year, at least raising the floor for the back-end of their rotation.

In fact, I’d argue that Anderson was probably also worth more than the 39th pick. Colby Lewis — a similar kind of back-end starter surviving without much in the way of stuff — got $6 million as a free agent for the 2016 season, a year in which he’ll turn 37. Anderson might not have Lewis’ track record, but he’s also a lot younger, and I don’t think it’s any kind of stretch to say he’d have landed a deal for around that $5 to $8 million that back-end starters for signing for this winter, had he been a free agent. And, of course, Anderson is under team control for five years, so he’s got some potential long-term value that guys like Lewis, Bartolo Colon, and Rich Hill don’t offer.

So, in dealing for Segura, the D-Backs gave up a prospect that has something like equal value to the 39th pick, plus a major league pitcher who probably has more value than the pick they didn’t want to surrender. The D-Backs gave up significantly more long-term value in this trade than they would have by just signing Kendrick.

And in return, they got a significantly worse player. Segura hasn’t hit well for the last couple of years, and his career 78 wRC+ is probably in line with what the Diamondbacks should expect in 2016. As an extreme groundball hitter who doesn’t walk, he neither gets on base or hits for any power, so at this point, he’s just a contact hitter who puts the ball in play with little effect, and he’s not even that great at that one skill. He does add some value as a base stealer and he’d likely be an above average defensive second baseman, so he’s not worthless, but Segura projects as something like a +1 WAR player for 2016. Realistically, he probably shouldn’t be an everyday player for a team trying to win this year.

Kendrick, on the other hand, has been an average or above average player every year for the last decade, and projects as roughly an average player again in 2016. He’s reaching the point where his skills are beginning to decline, but in the short-term, he should still be expected to be a roughly league average hitter who can still hold his own at second base. It’s pretty likely that he will he be a good bit better than Segura in 2016.

Of course, comparing just the output between them isn’t entirely fair. For one, Segura will make just $2.6 million next year, while Kendrick will make ~$10 million even on the cut-rate deal he gave LA, and we don’t know if he would have gone to Arizona for that price. Segura is under control for three seasons, while the Dodgers get Kendrick for just two. The D-Backs also valued the cash they saved by dumping Hill, which could be spent to bring in an upgrade elsewhere, probably in the bullpen. So the team didn’t just trade for Segura; they traded for Segura and cash, both the savings they didn’t spend on Kendrick and the money they got by unloading half of Hill’s deal.

But this is a weird time for the Diamondbacks to suddenly be pinching pennies and worrying about their long-term outlook. They pushed in on Zack Greinke to accelerate their window to contend, and made the ill-advised Shelby Miller trade because they wanted to try and run down the Dodgers sooner than later. Going into the season with a bad player at second base seems like a poor way to maximize the effectiveness of those win-now moves, especially when it thins out the depth of the big league roster and removes another quality prospect from the farm system in the process.

Like with the Miller trade, the D-Backs are giving up real long-term value in a deal that I’m not even sure makes them better in 2016. The marginal difference between Segura and Owings as the starting second baseman is probably not that much larger than the downgrade in rotation performance that will come from replacing Anderson with worse depth-starters, and at this point in the winter, freeing up some cash to sign a free agent reliever isn’t going to bring back a lot of added value. Meanwhile, the team now has surrendered another interesting prospect and a cheap back-end starter who wouldn’t have been a free agent until after the 2020 season.

This off-season has highlighted the stark contrast between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks front offices, and this move continues to show that LA will pivot away from their original plans when a value proposition presents itself, while the Diamondbacks bizarre valuation of draft picks and prospects continues to lead to head-scratching decisions. Howie Kendrick could have helped the D-Backs try to beat out the Dodgers in the division race, but instead, he returned to LA because Arizona overvalued a draft pick, then paid an even higher price to acquire a worse second baseman instead. Instead of narrowing the gap between the two clubs, the pair of moves only highlights just how far the Diamondbacks really have to go, and how many things will need to go right for them to compete in the NL West in 2016.

We hoped you liked reading Howie Kendrick, Jean Segura, and Arizona’s Latest Mistake by Dave Cameron!

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bwenger6183
Member
bwenger6183

I don’t like the deal for AZ either, but didn’t they get Tyler Wagner as well? He seems like an ok pitching prospect to me. Certainly that would need to be factored in to the equation.

Moranall
Member
Moranall

I don’t know a lot about Tyler Wagner, but Keith Law stated he was roughly equivalent to Anderson in terms of value (fifth starter).

Richie
Member
Richie

Meaning Wagner is potentially or currently as valuable as Anderson? If ‘currently’, that does really change the value of the trade. Even if just ‘potentially’, well, that’s still enough value to factor in.

bwenger6183
Member
bwenger6183

Especially when years of control are factored in. Anderson only has 4 years left, and Wagner has 6 I believe.

Moranall
Member
Moranall

I don’t know the legality of how much I can quote from Law’s article (since it’s Insider), but the gist is that he saw them both as fifth starters but thinks Wagner is better in the bullpen.

Having watched Anderson, I don’t know how much more he’s got left. His strikeouts took a dive last year and I don’t see him having much value in a bullpen role. Wagner seems to play up in the bullpen, with a really good mid-90s sinker.

I do find it ironic that Wagner’s MLB debut came against Anderson and the Dbacks in a game that ended up going 17 innings. Anderson gave up 6 in 5 IP and Wagner gave up 5 in 3.2 IP. Segura also went 4-8. I don’t know what this actually means, but I find it rather amusing.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love

And the AZ BP is terrible.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Chase Anderson is nothing special, but an above-replacement fifth starter is actually pretty useful. Most teams are going to give a big chunk of starts to below-replacement guys over the year. Wagner is now the DBack’s 10th best prospect by MLB.com, and they have two overall on the top 100, putting Wagner pretty far off of that.

If a team’s 10th best prospect could be expected to be Chase Anderson, that would be an amazing system. Likely that is close to Wagner’s best-case-scenario.

rosen380
Member

“Most teams are going to give a big chunk of starts to below-replacement guys over the year.”

Last year the average team gave 14 starts to SPs who were below replacement…

The top 10 teams in the league by win/loss averaged only 5 while the bottom 10 averaged 27 starts, so the general point might be more than bad teams ultimately give a lot of starts of below replacement player SP…

…though ultimately maybe a large part of why you were bad is that you gave bad SPs a third of your starts [Phillies, Braves, Reds and Rockies averaged 49!]

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Ok, that’s less than I thought, but in any case, Chase Anderson was a good bit above replacement-level, so I can move the goalposts a little bit and still be basically right 🙂

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love

This is a poorly written article. The author left out wagner and also failed to discuss the overall contact health pre and post this offseason, how they have 20 mil more to acquire talent and the possibility of additional trades from middle infeld players.

JediHoyer
Member
JediHoyer

What team needs a no bat all glove middle infielder though? Basically every team has that in the system. They have traded the only assets that had real value. They can sign desmond and play him at second, thats basically their only option in the free agent market at this point. Maybe owings can bring an iffy middle reliever back. They still have tomas contract on the books which is actually the worst contract they had.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love

They received value for those assets. They also shed bad contracts. Being less good than you think it should be does not equal bad.

Yes. The team has had a high volume offseason with moves that offend fangraphs aesthetic sensibilities.

The moves were almost all net positives and the sum was positive as well.

Anyone who thinks the franchise is in a worse spot now than under the previous FO is wrong.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

The Miller trade is hard to spin as a net positive. The Greinke deal also is unlikely to be a net positive, more likely a wash. The best you can say about them is they addressed needs, but more value for less value isn’t really a good move just because the less value addresses a need. You’d at least want them to trade equivalent value. And, of course, you’re completely ignoring any value lost from trading away some of these prospects, and the value of depth, which is easiest to ignore at exactly this time – before the season, where depth is only theoretical, and the “team” is comprised only of the intended starters, and there hasn’t been time to see what the prospects become.

Lastly, better than the last D-Backs FO is not that much of a compliment.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd

There are like two paragraphs on the additional money part.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love

There are. I was wrong on that.