Phillies set table for transformative offseason with Segura deal
Stephen Brashear / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Philadelphia Phillies are going to let it eat this winter. Jean Segura is the amuse-bouche.

Resolved to contend next season following a promising 2018 campaign in which their protracted rebuild started, kind of, to bear fruit - at 80-82, they finished with their best record (and run differential) since 2012 - the Phillies acquired Segura and relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos from the suddenly rebuilding Seattle Mariners on Monday in exchange for 23-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford and veteran first baseman Carlos Santana - an unambiguous win-now move that presages a transformative offseason in which they'll likely sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Or both.

With only about $108 million committed to their 2019 payroll, and virtually no financial obligations beyond 2020, the Phillies are primed to make it rain this winter in free agency, having arrived at the reinvestment stage of their rebuild at the perfect time, i.e. with two generational talents available. They need the help, too, if they're to distinguish themselves in an increasingly improved division that could have four legitimate contenders by the time Opening Day rolls around.

"We're going into this expecting to spend money," Phillies owner John Middleton told Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports in November. "And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it."

Clearly, though, in addition to their willingness to spend money, the Phillies are now prepared to swap the prospect capital they worked so long to amass in order to prioritize winning at the major-league level. Crawford, after all, was considered a pillar of the Phillies’ future as recently as last winter. (He may still be an impact player one day, too, despite stumbling through a disappointing 2018 campaign.)

The strides made last summer at the big-league level, however - by Philadelphia's pitching staff, in particular - suggest the future is now, and the front office is evidently done waiting, determined to fill in the gaps in the lineup from outside the organization, whether by signing checks or trading off long-term assets.

That process got underway Monday with the addition of Segura, a soon-to-be 29-year-old shortstop in the prime of his career, coming off a season in which he finished ninth at his position in fWAR (3.8) and earned his second career All-Star nomination. Since getting shipped out of Milwaukee ahead of the 2016 campaign, Segura has hit .308/.353/.449 (116 OPS+) over that span while accruing more WAR than all but a half-dozen shortstops: Francisco Lindor, Machado, Corey Seager, Andrelton Simmons, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa. He may be the Phillies' best position player at the moment.

That qualifier - at the moment - is key.

After all, the Phillies now have a vacancy to fill in left field - Rhys Hoskins, their incumbent, will shift over to first base to replace Santana - and Harper just happens to play the corner outfield. Machado, meanwhile, fancies himself a shortstop, but the addition of Segura won't deter the Phillies from pursuing him; according to Nightengale, they're still interested in signing the four-time All-Star to play third base. And if he isn't amenable to that? Well, maybe the Phillies would consider moving Segura to third base and finally cutting bait with Maikel Franco, the top-prospect-turned-placeholder. Regardless, having too many first-division players is a conundrum the Phillies are actively seeking out.

For now, as they mull their next strike, the Phillies' lineup is improved, as is their bullpen depth thanks to the additions of Nicasio, whose 6.00 ERA in 2018 belied his outstanding peripherals (2.99 FIP), and Pazos, a left-hander who authored a 2.88 ERA over 60 appearances last season. And they didn't part with any elite trade assets or raise their 2019 (or 2020) payroll by more than a hair to do so, either.

Frankly, that's what makes this deal so underwhelming from the Mariners' perspective. Considering how Crawford's stock has dropped over the last couple seasons due to injuries and underperformance in the upper levels of the minor leagues - and, briefly, in the bigs - this feels primarily like a long-term salary dump. And while shedding potentially cumbersome financial obligations should be a priority for a rebuilding club, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has quickly liquidated most of his top trade chips - James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, and now Segura - without getting a truly elite prospect back. Maybe he'll get one when he trades Mitch Haniger in about 20 minutes.

And while Mariners fans wait for this somewhat impromptu rebuild to yield a true piece de resistance, so, too, are Phillies fans anxiously awaiting their club's prized offseason acquisition. Segura is a nice start. But now it's time to eat.

Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.

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Phillies set table for transformative offseason with Segura deal
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