Blue Jays: Don’t read too much into Marcus Semien’s recent comments
Marcus Semien made some recent comments about playing shortstop that had Blue Jays fans raising their eyebrows, but there really shouldn’t be a lot of concern about that.
First and foremost, Semien hit the nail on the head during a pre-game interview with Sportsnet’s Arash Madani on Sunday, saying “now isn’t the time to be talking about that”. Madani had asked the star second baseman if he would prioritize playing his old position when he becomes a free agent again this winter, and not surprisingly Semien wasn’t going to take the bait with a week left in the current regular season. There will be time for that conversation later.
While I can understand why some fans may be concerned about Semien’s comments about playing shortstop, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as some would have you believe. First of all, Semien has once again proven himself as one of the best players in the American League in 2021, and he did that while playing on a one-year, “show me” contract with the Blue Jays after a down 2020 campaign that was just 60 games. Prior to signing in Toronto the 31 year old had grown into a steady defender at shortstop for the A’s, and he’s proven himself as more than capable in limited opportunities with the Blue Jays as well. Simply put, he has every reason to believe that he’s a capable shortstop, and to even state as much.
Semien also talked about the value of middle infielders that can play more than one position, something that he’s proven he can easily do with the Blue Jays. There are several examples around baseball, and that could be especially important if Semien can secure a long-term deal. It might mean that he starts his next contract as a shortstop, and understands that he could move to second base as he gets to the end of the deal.
It’s entirely possible that Semien will prioritize a return to his preferred position when he looks for his next contract, but I’m also confident that there are more important factors. He has been a fantastic fit with the Blue Jays this season, and I’d be very surprised if he wouldn’t put them on his list of potential destinations going forward. Of course, the biggest key is going to be the term and the dollar amount of his next deal, and the Blue Jays have the resources to make him a big offer if they so choose.
The only thing the Blue Jays can’t really offer him is the full-time spot at shortstop, and I’m sure that’s something that even the veteran understands. Bo Bichette has made steady improvements as a defender throughout the 2021 campaign, in part thanks to the presence of his keystone partner. With four years of contract control and an extremely bright future ahead of him, Bichette is the unquestioned shortstop of the present and future.
However, that doesn’t mean that Semien has one foot out the door. He’ll join several other All-Star calibre middle infielders on the market this winter including Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, and more, and there will only be so many teams looking to spend big money on a shortstop. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if at least one team prioritized Semien in that mix, but there’s no guarantee that a long-term deal as a shortstop is waiting for him, even if it’s likely.
More importantly, I believe the message that Semien wants to send by making that statement is that he wants to be valued as a premium shortstop, and I think that’s reasonable. Whether it’s fair or not, shortstop is generally viewed as a more valuable position than second base, and I doubt that Semien and his camp want to make any concessions when they consider new deals. With that said, I’m willing to bet that Semien would play second base going forward with an exciting young team like the Blue Jays, but he’s going to need to be paid like an All-Star calibre shortstop.
Semien is now in a tie with Davey Johnson for the all-time record for home runs by a second baseman, and he’s done that in a year where he’s had to make defensive adjustments with a new position, and done it very well. He’s definitely proven himself as about a good a fit as you could hope for in Toronto, and while I’m sure he would prefer to return to his old position in an ideal world, I don’t think it’ll be a deal breaker if the Blue Jays make the right offer.
All that said, Semien said it best when he said, “there will be time for that later”. For now, here’s hoping the MVP candidate can finish off his incredible regular season by helping the Blue Jays reach the postseason for the second straight year.