Phillies

Manny vs. Bryce, Santana signing not a mistake, more on Phillies' trade for Jean Segura

Manny vs. Bryce, Santana signing not a mistake, more on Phillies' trade for Jean Segura

The trade is complete. The Phillies have acquired two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura and two relief pitchers from the Mariners for infielders Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford (see story).

Let’s look at some of the particulars of the deal and offer a few thoughts. 

• Segura, who turns 29 in March, is signed through 2022 and owed about $60 million. The Phillies are taking on all of that money and the $9.25 million owed reliever Juan Nicasio. The Phils are also getting lefty reliever James Pazos in the deal.

The Mariners are taking on the $35 million that remains on Santana’s deal.

So the rebuilding Mariners saved about $35 million with the deal. There is value in that. 

• Once again, the Phillies used their greatest resource — money — in getting a deal done. Nicasio, who had an ERA of 6.00 last season, is clearly a salary dump, but the Phils are able to take him on (and hope he rebounds in 2019) because they really wanted Segura.

In recent years, the Phillies took on significant money in the trades that sent Cole Hamels to Texas, Jonathan Papelbon to Washington, Marlon Byrd to Cincinnati and Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. Those deals netted the Phillies a number of prospects, some that did not pan out, but others such as Jorge Alfaro, Nick Pivetta, Nick Williams, Zach Eflin and Jerad Eickhoff who have made varying contributions and still have upside.

• According to sources, the Phillies still hope to sign free agent Manny Machado and play him at third base. Should the Phils fail to sign Machado, they could look to someone like Mike Moustakas on a short-term deal at third before making a run at Nolan Arenado in July or next winter when he becomes a free agent. Maikel Franco is still with the club and there’s always the chance he could stay at third base, but the team has looked to trade him in the past and this seems like the time to make it happen. The Padres are a good fit.

• Trading Santana was a big offseason objective for the Phils because it allows Rhys Hoskins to get back to his natural position of first base. With Hoskins gone, who plays the outfield? Right now, it looks like Roman Quinn in center flanked by Nick Williams and Odubel Herrera, but there is still a chance the Phils could make a play for Bryce Harper, depending on how things shake out with Machado. The gut feel here is that the Phils have prioritized Machado because they like the idea of having him and Segura on the left side of their infield.

• There’s a lot of talk that GM Matt Klentak made a mistake in signing Santana and moving Hoskins to left field last year. This might be semantics, but mistake doesn’t seem like the right word to this observer. Klentak took a gamble that he could add some offense (power and on-base percentage) to his lineup by signing Santana and that necessitated taking a chance on Hoskins in left field. Well, Hoskins struggled defensively and Santana hit .229. That doesn’t mean Klentak’s experiment was a mistake; it means it just didn’t work. Pat Gillick used to say you can’t be afraid to take chances. Klentak took one. It didn’t pan out. Now, he’s done a pretty good job getting out of it quickly. He improved his offense (a lot) and defense at shortstop in the process and got a key player (Hoskins) back in his comfort zone. Good work.

By the way, if Santana had two more hits a month, he would have hit .250. One of the problems was he was paid like a star and is really a complementary player, sort of like Jayson Werth was on the great Phillies teams, minus the studs. But Santana is still a pretty good player and hats off to him for playing hard — and looking good at third base — until the end of the 2018 season while some of his mates shut it down as the losses piled up.

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Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



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