Marcus Semien has played baseball in the Bay Area his entire life, at every level. But when he jogged onto the Dodger Stadium field down 11-4 in the eighth inning on Thursday, he wondered if it would be the last time he would ever play shortstop in an A’s uniform.
Semien, 30, has never found himself in this position before. For the first time in his career, he will become a free agent and this is all new to him. He explained what he was thinking when he took the field last week:
“I thought about that [free agency] in the Wild Card series when we were in elimination games. I am pretty logical. I understand what is going on with everything. Our backs were against the wall a couple times here in the playoffs and when you put that jersey on, you take the field … and I was like, is this my last time playing shortstop for this team? I don’t know.”
Semien declined to sign with the White Sox in 2008 when they drafted out of Saint Mary’s High School in Berkeley. The Sox drafted him again in 2011, and he signed with them after playing baseball at the University of California Berkeley where he met his wife, Tarah, who played volleyball there. Semien made his MLB debut against the New York Yankees in 2013, and the 22-year-old got a hit off legendary pitcher and Vallejo native C.C Sabathia.
Semien was traded to Oakland in 2014 with Chris Bassitt, Rangel Ravelo and Josh Phegley. Bassitt and Semien enjoyed ending their former team’s season in the AL Wild Card round, where Bassitt threw a win.
Semien spoke on what it meant to play the White Sox, and his response makes you realize how much he loves Oakland and sees himself as an Athletic:
“I think I came up here. [Oakland] I played six years in the major leagues, here. I was drafted by the White Sox but I have been here [Oakland]. I am able to be with my family pretty much everyday when we are at home. I get to sleep in my own bed.”
The Bay Area has always been home to the 2019 AL MVP finalist, who grew up in the East Bay, found the love of his life, and started a family in the same area he grew up. When Semien was first drafted, he made $500,000 with the White Sox. When he was traded to the A’s he received a $10,000 raise and by 2017 he reached $545,000.
Semien struggled defensively in 2015 but by the time he turned 27, his errors became minimal and his salary backed it up. He earned $3.125 million in the 2018 season and the next year he was receiving close to $6 million. He made $13 million in 2020 for playing in just 60 games. His salary for 2021 is yet to be determined, along with where he will be playing.
Bob Melvin spoke to Semien on the plane home from Los Angeles where they lost the ALDS. Semien said he wants to be in Oakland and if the circumstances present themselves, the A’s would certainly want him back, Melvin said:
“In a perfect world he wants to be here, I don’t think there is any question about that. It’s going to be his choice, there are a lot of factors out there that are still unknown and he is very aware of that. He is a smart guy and he understands the situation.”
Only time will tell. During his six years in the big leagues, primarily with Oakland, Semien has earned $24,092,800 and could expect that or more after he looks at his options in the market and learns his value as a player. Semien led the league as a shortstop in the 2019 season for most runs (123) most at bats (657) second most hits (187, Xander Boegerts 190) and tied for most triples (7, Jorge Poleno) making him a 2019 top-three AL MVP finalist.
The 2020 season was tough on everyone, and Melvin explained how all the great players struggled in the weird 2020 season:
“I think everybody had a tough time, you see it around the league, you see some really good players around the league struggle, have struggled during the 60-game season. A lot of times you just get going after 50 games or so but there is a lot more clarity once it gets to the post season.”
Semien finished 2020 season batting .223 with seven homers among his 47 hits. But in the postseason, Semien hit .533 and doubled his regular season on-base percentage. Teams will have to be open-minded when thinking about all numbers from the 2020 season, and his 2019 resume is strong.
Five days after the final World Series game, the Oakland A’s have the option of submitting a one-year qualifying offer to Semien. This year’s number, based on the average salary of the top 125 highest-paid players in the league, is a record high $18.9 million. Semien will have ten days to decide, and can talk to other teams during that time.
Billy Beane has had an open line of communication with Semien’s agent all year and knew once the offseason came, Semien would be a hot topic. Although it’s too early to tell, Beane touched on if Semien would receive a qualifying offer:
“When we sit down and access what we think our payroll is going to be, the qualifying offer… would apply that to someone like Marcus but questions that we will have to sit down and compare that to where we think our payroll is going to be and make that decision then.”
Semien could accept the $18.9 million for a $5 million raise, but with platinum glove third baseman Matt Chapman back after hip surgery, Semien may want to give it one more shot with close-knit team that he leads as the longest-tenured player.
Semien, though, isn’t the only valuable player to become a free agent after the 2020 season. David Forst said the A’s were going to have holes created by free agency this offseason, but the core of the team is returning and they expect their young players to get better:
“You take the Matt’s [Olson and Chapman] on the corners thats a start and anybody would like to have. You have arguably four starters that we feel good about coming back if you include potentially Puk into that mix as well. [Ramon] Laureano in center field, [Stephen] Piscotty in right field. I think I was really encouraged with the was Khris Davis started to swing the bat… so that is a lot of pieces in place that I think are good pieces.”
Liam Hendriks, Joakim Soria, Mike Fiers, Yusmeiro Petit, Robbie Grossman, and T..J McFarland are also on the market and with half the bullpen in the same boat, the A’s won’t be the same team without all of them on the roster. The A’s aren’t a team that likes to spend money, but keeping Semien may be top priority. He is a leader in the clubhouse, an everyday player and makes things happen. His teammates speak highly of him and don’t want him to leave, especially one who goes way back to their college baseball days at Cal, Mark Canha:
“Marcus is an incredible person. As a friend, as a teammate, as a man. You can’t have a better teammate than Marcus and you look at the day he had today and the playoffs he had, and how consistent he was in the playoffs despite his numbers in the season. He had injuries and he had hardship this year and he is just a fighter. He is the ultimate. He is the guy you want on your team. I sure hope we get him back but I don’t think that is lost on anyone in our organization or anywhere else. Marcus is going to be just fine. He is our captain and he is a hell of a player and a hell of a friend.”
The qualifying offer was created after the 2012 season with a $13.3 million price tag. There have been 90 offers since the qualifying offer was created and only five players have ever accepted it. The first ever was Mets third baseman Neil Walker. In 2016, Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies, 2018 Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and the last player to do it was Jose Abreu, the White Sox first baseman. Could Semien be the sixth?
If a team does sign Semien after he rejects the offer, that team will be penalized their second best draft pick. If the A’s do decide to make the offer, it will open a lot of options for him and he will have to make some tough decisions for his family and career that will change the life as he knows it.
The A’s are known to create star players from their farm system and have been able to do that with players like Matt Olson, Chapman, Sean Murphy, Jesus Luzardo, and A.J. Puk and do that with smart draft picks.
Beane spoke about who could replace their star shortstop if he left:
“I don’t feel good about anybody better than Marcus at this point, lets put it that way. I feel and I know David and Bob feel the most comfortable with Marcus… but we are trying to put it out of our mind right now… Replacing a guy like Marcus is going to be hard no matter who it is.”
Beane listed all the positives Semien brings to the table:
“So that should tell you the shoes, if he is gone, the shoes the need to be filled, there are very few guys like him. He is a player rep, he is the team leader, he plays every single day, he is a local guy, there’s a lot of boxes a guy like Marcus Semien checks. I don’t know if there’s anyone out there in the league that checks them like he does.”
If Semien does end up leaving, Oakland could turn to No. 4 A’s prospect Nick Allen to fill the very big gap that Semien filled. Chad Pinder shined in the postseason and could potentially play shortstop, along with Tony Kemp. The A’s could be losing seven key players and will be very busy this offseason.
Semien can’t be replaced and Melvin spoke about the bond both Cal alumni share and how much he would be missed:
“I am pretty close to Marcus. We will be in close contact here and I wish him the best whatever happens. Obviously we would love to have him back he has meant so much to this organization not only as a player but as a person as a leader. What he means to the community there are a lot of reasons why we would love to have Marcus back.”
Melvin wasn’t too convincing and if Semien did the math, it may not add up. The A’s always seem to get rid of their star players when it comes time to pay them the big boy bucks and teams who are willing to spend money to keep their players usually win. Melvin spoke about the Astros organization after their ALDS loss on Thursday:
“The team has played together and they are a really good team. When you are a really good team, you try to keep them together… It’s [Astros] an experienced team that has played well for years now.”
Marcus Semien was a Giants fan and before he got rid of his social media, he followed the San Francisco Giants in 2019. With 33-year-old, three-time World Series champion Brandon Crawford on his way down from his peak, the Giants could be a possibility. Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor will be a free agent after 2021 if Semien decides to stay a year and see what happens there. J.P. Crawford has struggled at shortstop for the Seattle Mariners. He could go play with MVP Christian Yelich with the Brewers who could use a strong short stop to solidify their team.