With the loaded shortstop free agency class in 2021, with Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Javier Baez, it will be interesting to see how teams around the league value this year’s class. Perhaps the largest unknown in the class, and maybe in free agency as a whole, is Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien.
After finishing third in the AL MVP voting in 2019, launching 33 home runs, and hitting .285, Semien struggled mightily in 2020, batting .223 and posting a .679 OPS. The .679 OPS is a .203 drop from his 2019 season. On the defensive side, Semien had -5 defensive runs saved, following his +12 performance in 2019.
Despite his 2020 campaign, Semien’s agent still believes that he can garner a $100 million contract in a relatively weak class, highlighted by Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons. Here are five potential free agent fits for Marcus Semien.
Five Possible Landing Spots for Marcus Semien
1. Cincinnati Reds
As Cincinnati Reds ’ general manager Nick Krall mentioned, the biggest need for Cincinnati is the shortstop position. Last season, Reds’ shortstops produced the lowest WAR in the major leagues with Freddy Galvis and prospect Jose Garcia playing a large role. Galvis struggled throughout the season, hitting .220, and Garcia, who has yet to play above the high-A level in the minor leagues, batted .194 with 26 strikeouts to one walk. The Reds need an impact bat in the lineup, evident by their inability to score a run in the wild card series against the Atlanta Braves. Kyle Farmer could also be an option this offseason.
Despite his agent’s beliefs, Semien can be a “buy low” candidate for the Reds on a one or two-year deal to see if he can find his 2019 form or at least provide a bridge towards Garcia or a big-name free agent in 2021. It may also be of interest for Semien on a one-year deal in the odd offseason, with the noted financial restrictions for many teams. In a lineup that needs a jolt of energy, Semien could very well be an ideal candidate.
2. Oakland Athletics
On November 1st, the Athletics opted to not give Semien the qualifying offer, a one-year $18.9 million contract. This does not eliminate the possibility of Semien returning, but it does seem to suggest that he might be outside of the Athletics price range. But, if Semien were to leave, then it would leave two gaping holes in the middle of the infield for the Athletics as Tommy La Stella may be on the move, with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson at the corners. Born in the Bay Area, Semien could still stay in Oakland on a one-year deal if his desired AAV is not available on the market. Although unlikely, he could also give Oakland a hometown discount and enter the free-agent market in 2022.
With the lack of proven in-house options, including Vimael Machin and Sheldon Neuse, the Athletics may be inclined to keep Semien on a one-year deal, as Simmons and Gregorius will be out of their price range.
3. Texas Rangers
In the 2020 season, Elvis Andrus batted .194 with three home runs in 29 games, producing a -0.4 WAR. This is just part of the downward trend for Andrus as he had a .684 OPS from 2018 and has looked a step slower defensively. 22-year old Anderson Tejeda had a few flashes, batting .253 but with 30 strikeouts and two walks. Another option at shortstop for the Texas Rangers could be to move Isiah Kiner-Falefa to shortstop and call-up top prospect Josh Jung.
Even with these options, the Rangers can solidify their infield by signing Semien. A career .254 hitter, he would be a boost to a team that batted .217 in the abbreviated 2020 season. It could also spur a switch for Andrus to second base, hiding his defensive struggles with -7 defensive runs saved since 2019. With Kiner-Falefa’s defensive versatility and the inexperience of Tejeda and Jung, Texas makes a strong candidate to sign Semien to a multi-year contract.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals finished 24th in the majors in runs per game, averaging just 4.20 runs per game last season. The offense was the kryptonite in the 2019 NLCS against the Washington Nationals, as they scored six runs in a four-game sweep. With the Francisco Lindor trade rumors last week, the Cardinals seem to see the shortstop position as an area for potential improvement. Paul DeJong is a solid player, batting .251 in his four-year Cardinals career, but he could move to second base to take over for Kolten Wong and compete with Tommy Edman. Semien improves the ceiling for the Cardinals’ offense if he can come even close to his 2019 numbers.
However, the primary limitation for the Cardinals is their payroll. Having already declined Wong’s $12.5 million club option, the Cardinals are expected to cut their payroll this season. The only option for the Cardinals may be to increase the length of their contract, sacrificing the AAV.
#STLCards executive John Mozeliak said the team's payroll will come down in 2021. The Kolten Wong move was the first domino of that. "Obviously, the success of the Cardinals the last 20 years has been our gate revenue. I do think we might be more negatively affected than others."
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) October 28, 2020
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Despite a talented young infield, the Toronto Blue Jays have kept infielders, such as DJ LeMahieu, on their radar this offseason. With Bo Bichette most likely locked into the shortstop position, Semien would have to slot in at second or third base as Cavan Biggio would have the other infield spot along with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. In his tenure with the Chicago White Sox, Semien had 13 errors in 50 games at third base. He was better at second base, with four errors in 29 games. However, Semien has grown into an above-average defender with the Athletics, so it seems plausible that he can seamlessly fit in with Toronto.
The Blue Jays may only want to add an infielder if it is a superstar, like Lindor, or a massive upgrade like LeMahieu. But, Semien could be that massive upgrade in his 2019 form. Semien would provide an upgrade over Travis Shaw, while providing a similar veteran presence.
Last Word on Marcus Semien
Marcus Semien is the biggest “what if” in this year’s free agency class. If he returns to his 2019 performance, the list above would double, if not triple, because of his solid defense and excellent offensive output. With his 2020 season, questions arise as to whether that 2019 season was an outlier. Due to this, it is likely that Semien takes a smaller deal this offseason. As for a prediction, the Reds make the most sense to land the former MVP finalist.
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