Last month, Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak raved about how valuable Scott Kingery’s defensive versatility makes him. While there’s some that would like to see Kingery play second base, his natural position, full-time, it appears that may not happen for some time.
Tuesday, Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reported that the Phillies have had internal discussions about moving shortstop Jean Segura to second base or third base in 2020. Segura, who will turn 30 next March, posted -5 defensive runs saved and a -1.3 ultimate zone rating in 2019, his first season with the Phillies. Those numbers represent a decline from the five defensive runs saved and 0.8 ultimate zone rating that Segura posted in 2018 with the Seattle Mariners. (It is worth pointing out that different teams align their defenders differently, so Segura’s 2019 defensive decline may not be as simple as him no longer being an adequate shortstop, though it doesn’t paint a good picture of him as a defender.)
Segura had the best offensive season of his career in 2016, when he slashed .319/.368/.499 with 20 home runs, 33 RBIs and a 5.0 fWAR while primarily playing second base for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Defensive metrics suggest don’t suggest that Segura was a defensive star in 2016, but he was an All-Star and playing a less stressful defensive position could help him rebound from a 2019 season where his batting averaged dipped to .280 after three consecutive seasons of hitting .300 or better.
If the Phillies decide to have Segura play second base regularly, not only would that preclude Kingery from playing there, but it would also likely mean Cesar Hernandez’s time with the Phillies is over. Hernandez, the longest-tenure Phillie, does have another year of arbitration eligibility, but could be a trade candidate this offseason. Hernandez’s on-base percentage dropped 23 points in 2019, and 40 points between 2017 and 2019. Hernandez is still only 29, but he made $7.75 million in 2019, and likely will make more in 2020. That would be a lot to pay to someone at a position that the Phillies have two internal options capable of playing and is increasingly seen as replaceable in baseball.
While it’s possible Segura plays at multiple infield positions in 2020, a move to third base on a full-time basis feels pretty unlikely. Beyond the fact that he’s never played there at the major league level, Alec Bohm, the Phillies No. 1 overall prospect, is a third baseman. He’ll likely make his major league debut at some point next summer, at which time he’s likely to take over the position on a full-time basis.
If Segura moved away from shortstop, that would obviously leave a hole at shortstop. Kingery, who primarily played shortstop in his rookie season of 2018, could fill that, though the guess here is that the Phillies won’t want to limit him to just one position. It’s unclear what the Phillies plans for center field and third base – the two positions that Kingery played the most at in 2019 – are for 2020.
The only shortstop that could become a free-agent this offseason that would be a legitimate starting option is Didi Gregorius. The 29-year-old has struggled since returning from Tommy John Surgery, as he’s hit just .238 in 2019. The idea of signing him to a short-term deal this offseason could intrigue the Phillies, but considering how productive he was for the New York Yankees in 2017 and 2018, it likely would intrigue a lot of teams.
If the Phillies do ultimately decide to move Segura away from shortstop, they could find themselves in the trade market for a shortstop for the second consecutive offseason. Meanwhile, there’s no indication that the Phillies plan to shop Segura, who they acquired from the Mariners last December. Segura is owed $42.75 million through 2022, and the Phillies have a $17 million option on him for 2023.
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