The Diamondbacks once again made headlines this weekend when they traded for Brewers shortstop Jean Segura. Given that the team gave up a regular starting pitcher in Chase Anderson and a former second-round pick in the trade, it’s reasonable to assume that the Diamondbacks view Segura as an everyday player at either shortstop or second base.
While Segura presents potential to add to the lineup, his presence should not come at the expense of incumbent shortstop Nick Ahmed. Ahmed has proven himself to be a defensive star, and while he is offensively challenged, the improvement Segura may bring with the bat is not enough to justify the skill lost on defense.
Segura has been a below-average offensive player the last two years and not a particularly strong defensive player either. After an All-Star 2013 campaign, Segura has batted just .252/.285/.331 since the start of the 2014 season. During the same timeframe, Ahmed has batted .222/.265/.346. So while Segura is the better offensive player, his improvement over Ahmed is marginal.
Defensively, Ahmed is miles ahead of Segura—and most of baseball, for that matter. Ahmed led National League shortstops with a 4.82 range factor, was third in the majors with 20 defensive runs saved and his UZR of 11.3 was also third-best in the majors. Segura, on the other hand, was sixth out of eleven qualifying National League shortstops in range factor with a 4.40 mark, saved -3 defensive runs and was 14th of 23 shortstops in UZR with 0.4. Defensively, there is no denying that Ahmed brings far, far more to the table.
This defensive difference reflects in the disparity between both players’ bWAR. In each of the last two seasons, Segura has posted bWARs of 0.6 and 0.0 respectively, indicating replacement-level production. Conversely, in Ahmed’s first full season last year, he posted a bWAR of 2.5. This is a higher bWAR than Yoenis Cespedes had last season. Defensive metrics may not be as exciting as home runs or RBIs, but they are critical nonetheless.
If the Diamondbacks want to start Segura, they should put him at second base. Incumbent second baseman Chris Owings fits the same light-hitting, solid defense bill that Ahmed does, though Owings is not the elite defender that Ahmed is. This would give the Diamondbacks the base-stealing presence lost with the trade of Ender Inciarte, while still giving Ahmed a chance to showcase his premier defensive skills. Statistics show that Ahmed is one of the top five defensive shortstops in all of baseball, and a defender like him allows the team to maximize the potential of its revitalized pitching staff.