The Arizona Diamondbacks entered the 2016-17 offseason with a new front office tandem, hoping for a new direction after Dave Stewart and company left the organization in disarray. They brought in Red Sox GM Mike Hazen to fill the void as President of Baseball Operations, hoping that the young GM could help steer the team back into relevance.
Despite the fact that the Diamondbacks have flown under the radar thus far this offseason, acquiring only Jeremy Hazelbaker off of waivers and Kelly Dugan, Kris Negron and Erik Davis as minor league free agents, while remaining out of the spotlight in free agency rumors, Hazen seems to have hit a home run in his first major transaction at the helm of the D-Backs.
The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired the young promising right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura, as well as outfield prospect Mitch Haniger and left-handed reliever Zac Curtis.
That the Mariners would trade Walker is a bit puzzling, in my opinion. Entering into his first season of arbitration, the 24-year-old posted a serviceable 4.22 ERA with a roughly league average 96 ERA+. His control was very strong as he walked just 2.5 per nine innings compared to eight strikeouts. While he was hittable, his fastball topped out at a whopping 97.6 MPH. Walker seems likely to enter the season as the Diamondbacks’ third starter behind Grenkie and Robbie Ray.
The Diamondbacks’ rotation has the potential to be one of the very best in the game. Whether they perform as such, however, is a different story. They are loaded with potential, as Grenkie has been an ace over the course of his career, Ray has been a very strong #2, Walker and Miller have both shown the ability to be rotation headers and Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley are both top prospects with front end potential. This acquisition could, however, mean the end of the line in Arizona for Patrick Corbin, whose career has been hampered by injuries. Now 27, he could be a trade or non-tender candidate.
Ketel Marte was the other piece acquired by the Diamondbacks. Marte had fallen out of favor in Seattle after posting weak offensive numbers in his sophomore campaign. I would imagine Chris Owings would move from short to second base, as Marte seems likely to replace him there. At just 23 years of age, Marte has shown the potential to be a strong #2 hitter, as he posted a .283/.351/.402 line in his rookie campaign. The lack of plate discipline will prevent him from ever becoming a leadoff hitter, however he has the potential to steal 20 plus bases in a season and can provide plus defense at shortstop. Marte could turn out to be a hidden gem of sorts, as he had fallen out of favor with the Mariners, which likely made him more expendable. Hats off to Hazen for identifying that.
The Mariners acquired themselves a new leadoff hitter. It seems likely that Segura will move back to shortstop for the Mariners, as Cano has second locked down. Jean Segura was traded from the Brewers to the Diamondbacks along with Tyler Wagner for Aaron Hill and a few prospects in what appeared to be a salary dump at the time. Segura, however, turned out to be one of the few bright spots for a dismal Diamondbacks team. Segura hit .319/.368/.499 and led the league in hits, with 203. He also placed 13th in MVP voting while stealing 33 bases and hitting 20 home runs. On top of that, Segura has an additional two seasons of team control. The big question, however, is will Segura be able to continue to play as well. Despite a strong first half in 2013, Segura was a well-below average bat in 2014 and 2015 offering little power and a line of .252/.285/.331. In those two seasons, however, he provided plus defense and strong speed, stealing 45 bases in 60 attempts. The Mariners took a major gamble in this acquisition, as they gave up what could have been the staff ace for years to come. It will be interesting to see how the young Segura will follow up on his outstanding 2016 season.
Mitch Haniger will be 26 years old this season and is due for an opportunity. In 2015, Haniger slashed .310/.368/.515 with 13 homers and 12 stolen bases (in 18 attempts) between HiA and AA. He followed that up last season with an even better .321/.419/.581 line with 25 home runs and 12 stolen bases (in 16 attempts) between Double-A and Triple-A. Haniger earned a brief cup of coffee with the big league squad at the end of the season. He hit reasonably well over 34 games slashing .229/.309/.404 with 5 home runs. He seems likely to compete for a bench role with Guillermo Heredia, who I would not be shocked to see traded in a minor swap later on in the offseason. While it was hard for Arizona to part with such a talent, the Diamondbacks find themselves with an already filled outfield consisting of AJ Pollock, David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas, therefore there was simply no room for him.
Finally, lefty Zac Curtis is a 24-year-old reliever who struggled in his rookie campaign posting a 6.75 ERA with an 8.8 BB/9 compared to just 6.8 K/9. His minor league numbers were much better as he posted a 3.20 ERA striking out a crazy 13.7 batters per nine innings compared to just 2.7 walked per nine innings. Those are nearly identical with his career minor league numbers. His velocity isn’t going to blow you away as he tops out at just under 94. His stuff is amazing though, and he could wind up as a solid set-up man down the line.
Who would I project as the winner of the trade? Personally, I see it as a win-win, with the Diamondbacks getting a slight edge. My reasoning is that they bought low and solid very high on Jean Segura, and then proceeded to buy low on Taijuan Walker, who has the ceiling of a franchise pitcher. While they gave up a potential three-hole hitter in Haniger, he is already 26 years old and there was simply no room for him, therefore it was better to get something out of him than to leave him on the bench and waste his potential. The acquisition of Marte is also very strong, as Marte is a plus defender who has great speed and is still just 23 years old, so he could still put it together offensively.
The Mariners didn’t come out too badly either, however. While they probably won’t get the same Jean Segura that the Diamondbacks were blessed with last season, he will provide plus defense at short, while posting at least solid offensive numbers. Plus, they were able to acquire a high upside reliever in Zac Curtis and a high-upside outfielder in Mitch Haniger who very well could start the season in the outfield for the Mariners.