One of the top-ten free agent prizes entering this offseason, shortstop Marcus Semien is primed for a nice multi-year payday.
A late-bloomer, Semien had a career year in 2019, where he posted a 7.6 fWAR, nearly doubling his career total for the previous six seasons, but a COVID-shortened and mediocre 2020 muddles his projected value.
Over the last three seasons (two full seasons and a COVID-shortened 2020) Semien has been a top-five shortstop in baseball by fWAR. Only Francisco Lindor, Xander Boegarts, and Trevor Story have accumulated more wins above replacement in that time, largely due to his excellent 2019.
To date, 2019 was the high-water mark for Semien, who posted a 137 wRC+ and a .285/.369/.522 slash line in his career year in Oakland. His 33 home runs that season were more than double his 2018 total despite playing only three additional games (he played in all 162 games in 2019, and durability has been a plus his entire career).
In a crowded middle-infield market, Semien is the youngest of this year’s coveted free agent infielders. Semien is six years younger than Justin Turner, two years younger than D.J. Lemahieu, and one year younger than Andrelton Simmons. Semien is only six months younger than Didi Gregorius, whose career fWAR trajectory pattern matches Simmons’ peak never reached Semien’s 2019 high.
Following six seasons with the Athletics following a trade from the White Sox, Semien has settled-in as a steady, durable, everyday league-average hitting shortstop. His defense, while adequate, is hardly Gold Glove worthy. On the offensive side of the ball, his only season of a better-than-league-average OPS and wRC+ was his career year of 2019.
Oakland did not extend Semien a qualifying offer, making him a more attractive free agent candidate since he doesn’t come tagged with draft pick compensation for whatever team ends up signing him. The lack of a QO itself tells us something about Semien’s free agent prospects, as any three-to-four win player he likely is worth the one-year, $18.9 million.
Semien seemingly has two choices in front of him; he can take a one-year offer, try to repeat his 2019 performance, and attempt to ink a lucrative multi-year deal in a crowded 2021 free agent class, or he can accept what are likely to be several multi-year offers.
Despite the 2019 ceiling, the 2020 season was not exactly a compelling encore. It’s unlikely that Semien will garner a $100+ million contract seeing as how he could not repeat his one-year success. Rather than a six-or-seven year $100 million deal, he’s probably going to be commanding offers in the two-to-four year range for much less money.
Semien should have multiple suitors, as the Angels lost Simmons and the Yankees lost two middle infielders this offseason. In addition to Los Angeles and New York the Reds are rumored to be seeking help at shortstop as well.
Whether it’s a one-year deal, or a three-year deal, teams have a decent idea of what they’re getting with Semien. While it’s unlikely he’ll reach his career-high 2019 ceiling, the floor is high-enough to make a multi-year deal with the cost.