Trades involving young, cost-controlled, starting-quality middle infielders do not happen very often. Shortstop and second base are premium positions in the MLB and teams, unsurprisingly, tend to be unwilling to part with players who can competently play said positions.
Over the last few years, there have been a fair number of trades involving fringe starters -- guys like Tommy La Stella, Darwin Barney, Didi Gregorious -- but rarely bona fide starters. Not necessarily superstars. Just guys you know will be able to hold down the position.
Jean Segura is one of those guys who seems pretty certain to be a quality player at shortstop for a while. And with the Brewers nowhere close to contention, it's possible Segura becomes a rarity in the trade world.
Segura, just 25 years old, had been hitting well this season with a .289/.322/.400 batting line up until the middle of June. Unfortunately, he has slumped hard the past two weeks, reaching base eight times in 61 plate appearances. For his career, he's a .266/.305/.365 hitter with the ability to steal 30+ bags in a given year. Defensively, you'll get different opinions from different people but he in general seems to be at least an average shortstop.
Also important: Segura has three years of team control after 2015. A buying team doesn't risk losing him immediate
But what is Segura worth if the Brewers decide to trade him? There's not much recent history to go on, as far as these trades go. Looking over the past few years, only two really stand out as possible comparisons.
The first is the Dodgers trading Dee Gordon to the Marlins this past off-season. But Gordon wasn't the only player involved: The Dodgers dealt him along with Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas for Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher, Andrew Heaney and Enrique Hernandez. The Dodgers also paid all of Dan Haren's salary.
Gordon is a decent comp for Segura. He's taken off in a big way last year, but in 2014 hit .289/.326/.378 -- very similar numbers to what Segura had this year before his recent slump. Importantly, though, Gordon has even more speed, leading the league with 68 stolen bags last year.
The good news for the Brewers is the Dodgers made a killing in that trade. Heaney, a left-handed pitcher, was a top-50 prospect three years running while Barnes has shown great ability to get on base with some pop as a catcher/second base prospect. Hernandez is also a young player who can slot in as a good utility guy (think Luis Sardinas a bit) and Hatcher can help in the bullpen.
Segura isn't looking quite as good as Gordon was at that point, though, and the Brewers don't have a Dan Haren they could throw in for free. Haren had been coming off a nice year, and getting his contract for 2015 paid off is pretty great. The Brewers could maybe do something similar with Matt Garza, but they wouldn't pick up that much money if anything. Kyle Lohse might end up reducing the value of the Brewers return if they tried to include him.
The only other trade that looks like a decent comp is when the Red Sox dealt unproven buy highly-talented shortstop Jose Iglesias for Jake Peavy as part of a three-team trade. The issue here is that the Red Sox were clearly the buyers in this situation and Iglesias was looked at as more of a prospect at that point. Thus, it's hard to draw many comparisons between this and a possible Jean Segura deal.
The other issue for the Brewers is the problem that there isn't a glut of contenders with a desperate need to trade for a shortstop. If Jean Segura were an obvious upgrade, sure, but he's not a difference maker like Troy Tulowitzki would be. Here's my try at breaking it down:
Not in contention enough to buy, regardless of shortstop situation:
Athletics, White Sox, Phillies, Marlins, Rockies
Have a young shortstop or soon-to-be-called-up shortstop prospect already:
Red Sox, Astros, Tigers, Mariners, Dodgers, Cubs, Pirates, Indians, Diamondbacks
Segura not a clear upgrade:
Royals, Rays, Cardinals, Nationals, Giants, Braves, Angels
Starter probably entrenched due to contract:
Rangers, Blue Jays
That leaves six teams that potentially could be looking for a long-term option at shortstop. Not all of them might be interested in Segura, though.
Twins: Eduardo Nunez is playing pretty well this year for them, plus they're a team on the rise. They wouldn't want to trade away prospects, not at this point.
Reds: In-division trades are expensive, and the Reds would be realistic about their chances of making it past the Cardinals/Cubs/Pirates in the central. They have an outside shot at a Wild Card, but they won't trade pieces they can use to build for the future. Also, Zack Cozart isn't a terrible option.
Orioles: JJ Hardy could maybe be put into section above where Segura isn't a clear upgrade. Or the entrenched due to contract. He's still good defensively, and can hold his own at the plate for a shortstop yet. No need for Baltimore to buy here.
With that, the three most likely trade options are the Mets, Yankees and Padres.
For the Yankees, Didi Gregorious is young but questionable. His defense is supposed to be his calling card, but even that has been called into question a bit this year. Gregorious has never really been expected to hit well, so if his defense isn't closer to Andrelton Simmons levels, the Yankees could look for a different heir to Derek Jeter's throne.
The Mets are back to Ruben Tejada after moving Wilmer Flores to second base. Ruben Tejada is not very good. The Mets offense is very, very bad and unless they do something drastic they aren't going to have the hitting to make the playoffs. Here's the thing, though: Segura alone isn't going to help that. Segura has/should have a nice bat for a shortstop. However, he's not capable of lifting an offense on his own. The fact New York could use him for a few years could make him desirable, but not crucial.
The Padres might be the most likely destination. They've been desperate for a shortstop since before the season began and were even rumored to be looking into Brewers utlity-man/prospect Luis Sardinas. Clint Barmes has been better than expected, but the combo of him and Alexi Amarista is not great for a team looking to make a huge push after acquiring guys like Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. The Padres are five games under .500 right now, but will certainly want to make a big push yet this year.
What could the Brewers get for Segura from the Padres? It's hard to tell. The Padres system is gutted and their top prospects are outfielders, which is tricky given the Brewers seem to be OK in that category for the most part. That said, based on the Gordon trade and the weakness of the Padres system right now it seems Milwaukee would be gunning for one of their top-three prospects at the very least.
Honestly, it's really difficult to project what the Brewers might get in return for Segura. It really depends on what team's think of him. Is Segura looked at as the player he looked like before this latest slump? The same Segura as 2013? That kind of player has potentially a lot of value with three years of team control. Or is Segura closer to 2014 and the past few weeks? That Segura doesn't figure to hold a lot of interest at the moment.
That's why, in the end, I don't think Segura gets traded at this year's deadline. Tom Haudricourt says the team would move him for the right price, but that price figures to be higher than most teams would be willing to pay. It might be more valuable to the Brewers to wait until the off-season, or a year+ down the line and hope Segura hits well enough to show his worth.
The Brewers have time on Segura. Orlando Arcia isn't knocking down the door just yet. If they can't get the deal they want, there's absolutely no need to deal Segura for the sake of it. Based on how things have played out so far, there might not be a buyer willing to pay the price for him just yet.