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Marcus Semien proved 2019 wasn’t a fluke

Semien bet on himself in 2021. It’s about to pay off.

MLB: OCT 03 Orioles at Blue Jays Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In most years, Marcus Semien would have a compelling argument for being the best position player on the market. In 2021, Semien slashed .265/.334/.538 while breaking the record for most homers by a second baseman with 45. He played stellar defense, winning his first Gold Glove with 11 DRS and 7 OAA. At the very least, his efforts earned him a top-three MVP finish for the second-consecutive full season.

This year, however, Semien isn’t the best position player on the market. He’s not even the best middle infielder. That’s not a knock against Semien by any means. Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are both incredibly talented, but the runners-up in the Correa/Seager sweepstakes are still going to have one heck of a consolation prize.

The Blue Jays extended a qualifying offer to Semien which has already been rejected. Whichever team signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick, but FanGraphs and MLB Trade Rumors still predict a multi-year deal with an AAV between $20 and $30 million. I’d say that’s not bad for a player who didn’t even get the qualifying offer last year, but Oakland’s fear that he would accept always looked dumb.

Semien’s 2020 wasn’t nearly as strong as the two 162-game campaigns it was sandwiched between. Despite posting his lowest wRC+ since 2014, Semien maintained a 3.1 fWAR pace over 600 plate appearances. Even at his floor, Semien is an above-average contributor.

If you’re looking for reasons to be wary, remember that he’s entering his age-31 season, so we might have already seen his ceiling. He finished 2021 with a decent xwOBA of .329, but that’s not the kind of number that screams 40-homer power. His defense is better than Seager’s, but Semien is still better suited for second base.

None of that should be enough to scare away potential suitors, though. Any team that’s in the market for Correa or Seager should be also be looking at Semien. Considering that Semien won’t take over $300 million to sign, his market should be even bigger.

The Angels are looking at Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher up the middle. Fletcher flashed some potential with the bat in 2020, but his offense took a dive in 2021. Fletcher, at least, is a solid defender. Rengifo hasn’t put it together on either side of the ball. Rengifo owns a career wOBA of .273, and he managed to accrue -7 OAA in 54 games this year.

The Phillies could be looking to improve over Didi Gregorius, who mustered just a 68 wRC+ in 2021 and played lousy defense. Semien would be joining Jean Segura and Alec Bohm in the infield. Bohm’s a clankmitt, and Segura is more of a second baseman these days. Philadelphia might be looking for someone who can definitely stick at shortstop, but Semien should be fine there for a couple of seasons.

Of course, the Blue Jays can still make use of him. Toronto won 91 games thanks to his help, and his production won’t easily be replaced in house. Cavan Biggio’s offense fell off this season, and it’s no guarantee it will return. The Jays will need reinforcements in the infield if they’re to keep pace in the AL East arms race.

Many other teams from the Tigers to the Astros to the Mariners should be interested in Semien. Even in a market with loads of talented middle infielders, he’s in the upper tier.

Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.