MLB Rumors: Latest Buzz on Marcus Semien, Michael Brantley, More

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IDecember 7, 2020

MLB Rumors: Latest Buzz on Marcus Semien, Michael Brantley, More

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Shortstop is a premium position in baseball, but free-agent shortstops are in a bit of a tough spot this winter.

    There is demand at the position. Teams like the Cincinnati Reds and Toronto Blue Jays could be among the clubs looking to add a middle infielder, but there is also a bit of a catch.

    The 2021-22 free-agent class is loaded at shortstop, with Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez all set to hit the open market. It is possible teams looking to add a shortstop buy low this winter in the hopes of spending big on one of the stars next winter. This would be bad news for someone like Marcus Semien, who is likely hoping to cash out.

    Here is the latest on Semien's market, as well as an intriguing suitor for Michael Brantley and possible destinations for former American League Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber.

Could a Position Change Be in Store for Marcus Semien?

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Semien has always been a quality player, capable of driving the ball out of the park and playing an excellent defensive shortstop.

    But his 2019 season feels like quite a long time ago.

    The 30-year-old finished third in the AL MVP voting that year after posting a career-high .892 OPS to go along with 33 homers and 92 RBI. Semien's 139 OPS+ was by far the best of his career, and he also ranked fifth in the majors in fWAR, per FanGraphs.

    However, Semien came back to earth in 2020. The San Francisco native had a .679 OPS and 91 OPS+, numbers far more on par with the rest of his career.

    Semien might have hoped his huge 2019 would result in a contract extension with the Oakland Athletics. But the A's never swayed from their image as a low-payroll team usually not willing to give out big deals. Now, Semien is a free agent, and he might be asked to play a different position next season.

    Robert Murray of FanSided reported Semien is drawing interest from "several" teams, adding some of those interested suitors have inquired as to his ability to play second base or the hot corner.

    A position change would be an interesting development in Semien's career. He has been one of the best shortstops in the game, depending on the metric.

    Semien ranked sixth among all defensive players (third among shortstops) in FanGraphs defensive value between 2018 and 2020. However, Baseball Savant's outs above average (OAA) metric does not look as kindly upon Semien's defensive value. He ranked 33rd out of 39 shortstops in OAA in 2020.

    Regardless, Semien is an athletic guy with plenty of range and decent arm strength.

    Murray reported some teams have told Semien they will make room for him at short. But it is not out of the question Semien plays a new position next year, nor is it out of the question for him to return to Oakland.

Yankees Reached Out to Michael Brantley

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees have key issues to address this winter, with the priority seemingly being the re-signing of infielder DJ LeMahieu.

    LeMahieu won his second batting title this past year, and he has a .922 OPS in two seasons with the Yankees. The veteran has been a vital run-producer in the lineup in addition to playing multiple positions.

    But LeMahieu should also have quite a loaded market, and if the Bronx Bombers fail to re-sign him, the Yankees could pivot to another top free agent who excels at making contact.

    Buster Olney of ESPN reported New York has reached out to outfielder Michael Brantley, who enters the market after a pair of strong seasons with the Houston Astros.

    Brantley hit .309 with an .867 OPS in his two years with the 'Stros, giving Houston much-needed balance from the left side of the batter's box. The 33-year-old has a terrific command for the strike zone, and he rarely misses his pitch. Brantley ranked in the 93rd percentile in whiff rate, per Baseball Savant.

    New York is in need of left-handed hitting, which could make Brantley an ideal fit in the middle of New York's lineup. He would also likely split time with Giancarlo Stanton between left field and the designated hitter spot.

    However, signing Brantley is likely an alternative to inking LeMahieu to a new deal. The Yankees also have needs in the starting rotation, and signing both Brantley and LeMahieu would almost assuredly take New York over the luxury tax threshold.

    Still, the Yankees are keeping their options open this winter.

Execs Weigh In on Corey Kluber's Landing Spot

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    Louis DeLuca/Associated Press

    Corey Kluber was one of the best pitchers in the game between 2014 and 2018, winning a pair of AL Cy Young Awards and anchoring the Cleveland Indians' rotation.

    But the 34-year-old has been through two injury-riddled seasons, and faces a bit of uncertainty this winter.

    Kluber made just seven starts with the Indians in 2019 due to myriad issues. Cleveland traded him to the Texas Rangers last winter, but Kluber promptly left his very first start with a grade 2 muscle tear in his throwing shoulder. He did not pitch the remainder of the season.

    It is all but certain Kluber is in store for a decent pay reduction, and it is likely—given recent injury history—he will have to settle for a one-year deal. But affordability could work in Kluber's favor, especially considering the number of teams needing starting pitching.

    One executive told Olney he expects Kluber to land with one of the Yankees, Boston Red Sox or New York Mets, and all three would appear to be good fits.

    The Mets might hope to make a splash by signing top free-agent starter Trevor Bauer, but they could pivot to cheaper deals for pitchers in the event they happen to sign a positional star like J.T. Realmuto or George Springer.

    New York will be on the hunt for at least one arm with Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ all on the open market, and the Red Sox need to bolster a rotation that ranked dead-last in baseball in fWAR, per FanGraphs.

    Boston in particular could be a good fit. The Red Sox will get Eduardo Rodriguez back, but Chris Sale might not return until June after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past spring. The Red Sox are also still cognizant of payroll, which could make Kluber the ideal "upside" target given his track record.

    Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported Boston has interest in Kluber, who apparently makes his home in the Greater Boston area.

    In any event, Kluber could have his fair share of suitors as he looks to get his career back on track.

             

    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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