Analysis: Will Marcus Semien be too expensive for A's?
The A’s had a big decision to make about Marcus Semien even before the shortstop’s monster 2019 season.
In the end, will it be the same old story for A’s fans? The venerable baseball observer Peter Gammons suggested as much last week.
Semien isn’t a free agent until after next season. But the MVP finalist is in line for a significant pay boost - probably into the neighborhood of $14 million.
Too rich for the A’s blood? Remember, this is a small-budget franchise that shocked its fans base last April when it finally held on to one of its stars and splurged for $33.5 million on a two-year extension for designated hitter Khris Davis.
Complicating matters is that the Bay Area native also might be too valuable for the A’s to keep.
Gammons told MLB Network last week that A’s GM “David Forst and (executive vice president) Billy Beane love this A’s team ... they especially love Semien, who is the leader of that team.
“But we still don’t know what’s going to happen with the ballpark. It’s fine to say, ‘Well, we’re eventually going to get it,’ but by the time they get the ballpark opened, Marcus is going to be old enough to run for president. So he might not be interested in staying in Oakland.”
Keeping Semien, an East Bay native who played collegiately up the road at Cal, would be a tremendous feel-good, hometown hero story.
Not to mention that he just had one of the best seasons by any shortstop in years and, at 29 and entering his sixth full season in the majors, could be just entering his prime.
It also seems like the A’s would finally be in position to begin adding more salary with a potential stadium deal likely closer than it’s ever been. And subtracting a key component from a young team that has reached the playoffs each of the past two seasons - and appears on the brink of taking another huge step - might be the final, final straw for a fan base that has grown weary seeing its shiniest stars cashed in on the brink of big paydays.
But, as in the most recent cases of Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes, is Semien too valuable to keep because of his perceived value to the rest of the league?
As encouraging as his ?improvements in the field and at the plate were this season, it’s very possible his trade value might never be higher to the A’s.
With a soft free agent class of shortstops and several teams in need of upgrades at the position, can the A’s afford not to at least consider trading Semien for a bounty of prospects and/or young players. After all, the A’s recent success has been built as much on flipping young assets (remember, then-top prospect Michael Ynoa was part of the Jeff Samardzija deal that netted Semien and three other minor leaguers from the White Sox in 2004) as much as developing them.
The A’s also soon will be have to face similar decisions with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. Moving Semien might clear some extra money to work out team-friendly long-term deals with the two corner stalwarts, although would Oakland be as appealing to either without Semien anchoring the middle of the diamond?
Semien broke out in a huge way in 2019, producing one of the most impressive all-around seasons in franchise history. He played in every game. He was a Gold Glove Award finalist for his defense.
And at the plate, his 123 runs tied the Oakland record set by Reggie Jackson. He hit 33 home runs and 43 doubles. His 343 total bases ranked second in the league.
When the dust settled, he was third in the AL MVP race, finishing behind only the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Astros’ Alex Bregman.
For his part, Semien has told the A’s he is interested in an extension, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday, though his asking price is unknown.
Semien, even at $14 million would be an appealing fit to many teams looking for an upgrade because of his age and the potential of continued career growth.
There is not a very deep ?free-agent class at the position - Didi Gregorius and Jose Iglesias are the top guys available. And based on his career trajectory, Semien would appear to be a relative bargain. Or at least worth the going rate. Boston’s Xander Bogaerts is the highest-paid player ($20 million) at a position that next season will see Texas’ Elvis Andrus make $15 million, the Phillies’ Jean Segura $14 million and the Giants’ Brandon Crawford earn $12.5 million.
Semien is a “legitimate star,” Gammons said. “Somewhere along the line he is going to be a fascinating person either for the future of the A’s or someone else’s future.”