The most likely outcome of the Philadelphia Phillies inking shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year/$14 million deal Tuesday is that Jean Segura will shift to second base, and Scott Kingery will open the season as the team’s starting third baseman, with No. 1 overall prospect Alec Bohm perhaps not far off from getting a chance to sink or swim at the hot corner at the major league level.
Defensive metrics weren’t kind on the job that Segura did at shortstop in 2019. He had 20 errors, a -1.3 ultimate zone rating and -5 defensive runs saved. That’s why he was open to moving away from shortstop, per Matt Gelb of The Athletic, and why the Phillies aggressively pursued Gregorius to take over there.
Perhaps with less defensive pressure on him, Segura will see an offensive bounce-back in 2020. He hit just .280 in 2019, after hitting over .300 in three consecutive seasons. His best season, 2016, came while he was playing second base full-time for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That year, he slashed .319/.368/.499 with 20 home runs, 33 stolen bases and a career-high 5.0 fWAR. The Phillies would be ecstatic to get a season in that same zip code from Segura in 2020.
At the same time, Segura has become a rather expensive option at arguably the most replaceable position in baseball. The Phillies non-tendered Cesar Hernandez because he was projected to make over $11 million in his final year of arbitration. Kingery, whose natural position is second base, will make just $1.5 million in 2020. Segura is probably a better player than Hernandez and Kingery will likely be needed at other positions, but it does make you wonder if a team that’s now less than $10 million from the luxury tax threshold wouldn’t be better served not having to pay Segura $42.75 million over the next three seasons.
The issue is, the Phillies have decided Segura can no longer play shortstop on a contending team, and the rest of the league has taken notice. It’s possible the Phillies experiment with him at third base in Spring Training, but the 29-year-old has never played that position at the major league level. Would there be any trade interest in Segura? Probably, but the guess here is that the Phillies would have to eat a portion of the money he’s still owed or take back a bad contract, which would defeat the purpose of trying to move him. He also has a full no-trade clause, and it’s possible that after playing for four teams in the last five seasons, Segura wouldn’t be interested in moving again.
Of course, even if the Phillies could find a more cost-effective option to play second base than Segura, it’s fair to wonder whether they’ll find a better player to fill out their lineup with than him at this stage. That’s all the more reason to go over the $208 million luxury tax threshold for a season and just try to field the best team, even if that isn’t the most thrifty thing to do.
There are mixed reports from credible outlets on whether the Phillies would be willing to go over the $208 million luxury tax threshold, and in what scenarios they would. But, after signing Gregorius, this is no longer a debate about whether the Phillies would go over the luxury tax treshold to sign superstar third baseman Anthony Rendon. If they want to add any reliever of even some note – i.e. Dellin Betances or Blake Treinen – they’ll have to go over the luxury tax threshold. The same could be said for if they attempt to add a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
Moving Segura may give the Phillies a little more wiggle room financially, but finding such a deal may not be likely, and it would probably weaken the team’s 2020 lineup. So, the feeling here is that when the Phillies open their 2020 season in Miami on March 26, Segura will be playing at second base, with Gregorius at shortstop and Kingery…somewhere in the starting lineup.
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