European football is in the middle of a comeback season, and the NBA is making tangible strides toward finalizing a return-to-play plan. But things are not looking as optimistic for baseball fans.
The long back and forth between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association continued Monday when the owners responded to the union's proposal by drawing up plans for a shortened schedule with fully prorated salaries, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.
Though the league has not officially proposed this plan to the players, Passan stated it is regarded as something of a "last resort."
The report also noted a schedule in the range of 50 games would pay players closer to 30 percent of their salaries. Generally speaking, the prevailing notion is players want to play more games to recoup as much of their salaries as they can.
But even in the event that teams are forced to play less than half of a full 162-game schedule, players will receive the same service time they earned during the 2019 season. In other words, players originally slated to be free agents this offseason will still become free agents.
With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the top infielders in the upcoming free-agent class, including New York Yankees utility man DJ LeMahieu.
Predictions for Top Free-Agent Infielders
LeMahieu was arguably the best value pickup in baseball last winter.
The New York Yankees signed the former Colorado Rockies star to a two-year, $24 million contract in January 2019. He finished fourth in the American League MVP voting, slashing .327/.375/.518 with 26 homers and anchoring a lineup decimated by injuries.
By FanGraphs' Dollars metric, which converts player performance into monetary value, LeMahieu was worth nearly $43 million in 2019 alone.
Unfortunately for the infielder, he is on the wrong side of 30, rarely a good sign for free agents in the open market. He will be 32 in July, which might mean teams will be hesitant to offer him more than a three- or four-year deal, particularly if he experiences any regression.
LeMahieu not only showed an uptick in power last year but also positional versatility. He slotted in at first base for the Yankees and was still a solid defender, though not nearly as proficient for when he is up the middle.
The guess here is the Yankees re-sign the California native. They might feel the need to prioritize re-signing James Paxton or Masahiro Tanaka, but LeMahieu has already become such a vital presence on that team.
Particularly if there is interest in some kind of short-term deal, a reunion makes sense for both sides.
Prediction: Yankees re-sign LeMahieu for another two years
Marcus Semien finished just ahead of LeMahieu in the balloting for MVP, placing third. He did so on the strength of a career-high .892 OPS and 32 homers.
The 29-year-old also played in all 162 games for the Oakland Athletics and ranked fifth in WAR, per FanGraphs. Naturally, this seems like a player the A's would insist on retaining. Indeed, the shortstop told the team he was looking for an extension, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network:
Jon Heyman @JonHeyman
Marcus Semien has told A’s he’s interested in extension. Not only is he a Bay Area native and Cal product but the A’s showed faith in him for years, enabling his stardom. They would love to keep Semien and will talk but it’s tough for A’s. He could be huge free agent after 2020.
But the A's had the 25th-highest payroll in baseball last year, per Spotrac, and almost never dole out long-term contracts. The best example is when Oakland signed former third baseman Eric Chavez to a six-year, $66 million extension, which was the largest deal in team history at the time.
Semien's offensive numbers from 2019 might seem like an outlier. But if he can follow up with a strong 2020, he could significantly boost his market. This might even include suitors at the trade deadline, if the Athletics find themselves struggling.
The question is: Where might Semien land?
Don't be surprised if the Cincinnati Reds get in the mix. They showed plenty of aggressiveness this past offseason and might go after Semien as an upgrade to shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Prediction: Reds sign Semien to four-year deal
Andrelton Simmons has quietly been one of the most underrated shortstops in baseball for some time.
Simba ranks fifth among qualified shortstops in WAR between 2017 and 2019, ahead of superstars such as Javier Baez and Manny Machado.
The 30-year-old has always been a wizard with the glove, but he has made improvements at the dish in the past few seasons. He clubbed 14 homers in 2017 before posting a career-high .754 OPS in 2018. He got off to a pretty good start in the first two months of 2019 as well, but a bum ankle ruined his season.
Still, Simmons has value as a guy who can hit for average and steal double-digit bases. Not to mention, he trumps all other shortstops in defensive runs saved (75) over the past three years.
It seems likely the Los Angeles Angels will bring him back.
Owner Arte Moreno and general manager Billy Eppler showed they are committed to winning sooner rather than later when they signed Anthony Rendon in December.
The Angels already had "internal discussions" about extending Simmons in March, per Jeff Fisher of the Orange County Register, and it seems likely he will remain with the team.
Prediction: Angels re-sign Simmons to three-year deal
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.