The Toronto Blue Jays’ offseason got off to a hot start and they certainly aren’t done. On Tuesday evening, the team reached an agreement with infielder Marcus Semien on a one-year, $18 million contract.
Infielder Marcus Semien is in agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 26, 2021
Semien is the fifth big-league signing this winter for the Jays, who also landed George Springer, Robbie Ray, Kirby Yates, and Tyler Chatwood. Toronto has allocated $184 million (most in MLB) to free agents this offseason.
Semien, 30, was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the fourth round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He spent 2013 and 2014 in the majors with the White Sox before he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics in a six-player trade. Through eight seasons, the University of California-Berkeley product has slashed .254/.322/.425 with 380 RBI on 830 hits, including 115 home runs.
The newest Blue Jay had a quiet campaign in a shortened 2020 season, but his 2019 was far more memorable. Just two years ago, he led all of baseball in games played (162) and plate appearances (747) en route to finishing third in MVP voting. His effort at the plate was outstanding as he earned a 139 OPS+, which was 40 points higher than his previous career-best, and he also dazzled in the field.
In 2020, Semien slashed .223./305/.374 with a .260 BABIP, .299 wOBA, and 92 wRC+. He walked in 10.6 percent of at-bats and struck out in 21.2 percent; both of these marks are higher than his career averages.
In addition to being a strong weapon with the bat in his hands, Semien is also a solid defender. Semien only played shortstop for the Athletics, owning a .968 fielding percentage. While not incredible, this is at least serviceable for a player of his caliber. He has posted positive defensive fWAR in each of the past five seasons, including 29.7 combined from 2018 to 2019. All in all, he is responsible for 18.7 WAR (7.6 in 2019 alone) in the field.
For the Blue Jays, there is risk in this move, but the potential for a jackpot-esque reward makes it a very reasonable signing. Semien will shift to second base with Toronto, so perhaps the biggest area of concern will center around how he handles a post that he hasn’t owned since 2014. Meanwhile, offensively, he might not bounce back to his 2019 level, but he will certainly improve on his 2020 stats with a full season ahead of him.
At $18 million, landing Semien is no minor investment. In a few short months, we’ll find out whether it was worth the splash.