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Marcus Semien, Blue Jays Reportedly Agree to 1-Year, $18M Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2021

Oakland Athletics' Marcus Semien during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Marcus Semien agreed to a one-year, $18 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported on Dec. 14 that Semien looked likely to resolve his future soon. Interested suitors also viewed him as a cost-effective solution ahead of the 2021 offseason:

"Although the 30-year-old Semien is unlikely to command the kind of deal that will take him deep into his 30s, one executive said he appreciates Semien for his steadiness, versatility, makeup and, yes, price point. What he meant: Semien isn't going to cost nine figures like the shortstops in the mega-class of 2021-22. Some teams are already preparing for the shortstopalooza of next offseason, which, barring extensions, will feature Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Trevor Story—five All-Stars, all of whom will hit free agency at 28 or younger."

After winding up third in the American League MVP voting in 2019, Semien took a step backward in 2020. He finished with seven home runs, 23 RBI and a .223/.305/.374 slash line in 53 games, and his slugging percentage was 121st among qualified hitters.

The Oakland Athletics won the American League West by seven games but lost to the Houston Astros in the AL Division Series. Semien acknowledged he started wondering in the previous round, when Oakland was one loss away from elimination, whether his time in the Bay Area was drawing to a close.

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"I thought about that in the wild-card series," he said, per Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. "I'm pretty logistical. I understand what's going on with everything and our backs were against the wall a couple of times … I took the field in the bottom of the eighth thinking, 'Is this my last time playing shortstop for this team?' I don't know."

Semien didn't get to profit too much from his monster performance two seasons ago. Under team control for one more year, he re-signed with the A's for $13 million to avoid arbitration, a figure that was lowered to $4.8 million because of the prorated pay structure of the 60-game regular season.

Because of the pandemic, another MVP-caliber campaign still might not have been enough to secure him a big long-term payday. His production at the plate put another dent in his earning power.

However, Semien could prove to be a big bargain for the Blue Jays.

It's tough to judge players too harshly based on their 2020 numbers. They played far fewer games than usual, and the pandemic also curtailed spring training and limited the extent to which they could train.

Semien also suffered a minor injury in his left side in September. If the problem arose well before that, it could also help explain why he nearly set a personal low for slugging percentage. He also had a .260 batting average on balls in play, well below his career average (.294). Having better luck could do wonders for his average.

According to Baseball Savant, Semien's exit velocity (86.2 mph) was down, and his launch angle (19.3 degrees) spiked compared to 2019. That's a recipe to wind up with far more flyouts and explained why his home run-to-fly ball ratio went from 15.3 percent to 9.3 percent.

It's a good idea to view Semien's 2019 campaign as a bit of an outlier and look at his ceiling as an above-average shortstop rather than one of MLB's elite position players. Even by that standard, he's a solid addition to Toronto's infield.

          

Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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