The MLB hot stove has begun to heat up with a few blockbuster deals these past two weeks. Mixed in the current hot stove talks with multiple teams is the Oakland A’s 30-year old shortstop Marcus Semien. While Semien failed to follow his stellar 2019 campaign with anything spectacular, his value has barely dwindled, making him a highly sought after free agent yet to sign with a team. If the A’s lose him however, they will be losing what has been a major, everyday staple for them the past five seasons. That is something extremely difficult to replace.
Semien’s roots stem deep in the East Bay Area. Born in San Francisco, California but raised in the East Bay city of El Cerrito, California, Semin grew up rooting for the A’s cross bay rival, the San Francisco Giants. He became a local sensation as far back as his high school and college days. After putting on a stellar show at Saint Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, California, he would go on to play college baseball at the University of California Berkeley. In 2011 he gained attention as an integral part of the California Golden Bears memorable run to the 2011 College World Series.
Semien was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, but was traded to the Oakland in 2015, a destination he was familiar with growing up.
Significance To The Team
When he first came to Oakland, Semien struggled mightily on the defensive front, committing 35 errors in his first season while posting an abysmal -8 BIS defensive runs saved above average. The midseason arrival of former Texas Rangers manager and longtime A’s assistant coach Ron Washington helped turn Semien around. In just three seasons he became one of the most productive shortstops in the game of baseball.
In 2018, he finished with +14 BIS defensive runs saved above average and finished second in gold glove voting at his position. As his fielding gradually improved, so did his hitting. In 2018, he put up an impressive .892 OPS and hit 33 home runs in a near-MVP season. That’s not something a team gets every year out of the shortstop position. While he had a down year in the shortened 2020 season, he was productive in the A’s playoff run. This October he batted .533
Beyond his stats, Semien has been a humble team leader and the core of this team for the past few years. He is almost like a modern day “Iron Man”, playing nearly every day. In fact, in these past three seasons he has played 374 of 384 total regular season games, including all 162 games in 2019. Semien has also been a leader off the field, giving back to East Bay communities and looking out for the good of each individual player’s safety so that the team got through the 60-game season.
Who Could Replace Him?
While what Semien brings to the team looks nearly irreplaceable there are certainly possibilities out there of productive options starting with free agents. Two top free agent shortstops the A’s might consider targeting if they let Semien walk are Andrelton Simmons or Didi Gregorius.
Their average annual salaries of $7.5 million and $10.3 are considerably lower than Semien’s $19 million worth. With five gold gloves under his belt, Simmons would be an upgrade to the A’s fielding production at shortstop. He is arguably the most dependable fielding shortstop in the game of baseball today. On the hitting side of things Simmons has shown promises of a high average, small ball hitter. But his true value comes on the field.
Gregorius on the other hand, displays more power as he put together a couple of MVP caliber performances in his years with the New York Yankees. But he has mostly been at or below average when it has come to his BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average.
Another alternative for the A’s would be to pursue one of the young shortstop talents they have in their farm system like Nick Allen, Robert Puason, Logan Davidson, or newly acquired Pete Kozma. Kozma is the only one out of those four with any major league experience. But even he has not fully proven to be a major league caliber player yet. If the A’s were to lose Semien tomorrow, they do not currently have the shortstop depth to replace him. Therefore going after one of those free agents might be necessary.
Bob Melvin even alluded to the A’s bleakness of the A’s shortstop depth for next season, making Semien that much more valuable of a part to the team. Fans, teammates, and management of the green and gold sure hope that they can strike a deal with Semien that is accommodating to the team’s 2021 payroll of $60 million.