The case for Marcus Semien
The Blue Jays arguably received two of the best bargains in baseball in 2021 between Ray and Semien. Ray signed a one-year deal for just eight million and is likely the leading contender for the Cy Young award. As for Semien, he didn’t come quite as cheap at one year and 18 million, but he already had a 3rd place finish in MVP voting on his resume from 2019. A player like that would have received a big multi-year offer under normal circumstances, but last winter was anything but normal, especially after Semien wasn’t the same player during the shortened 60-game schedule in 2020.
The Blue Jays gamble paid off in a big way, as Semien not only finished among league leaders in most offensive categories, he set a new all-time standard for home runs in a single season by a second baseman with 45. As good as he was on the field, his impact on Bo Bichette’s career may have been almost as valuable, and that’s saying a lot.
Can the Blue Jays be the same team without Semien going forward? The short answer is no, even if there is still plenty of firepower left without him, and all kinds of room to grow for young stars like Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and more. That said, if Semien does end up in another jersey next season, it’s going to leave a pretty significant hole in the lineup.
Prior to this year’s trade deadline, my working expectation was that the Blue Jays were hoping that Austin Martin might be ready to take the second base job in 2022 after a full season of work in the minor leagues. That’s obviously not going to happen now that he was traded to Minnesota in the Berrios deal, and the internal options for second base are pretty underwhelming. The Jays could roll the dice that returning Cavan Biggio to his natural position would restore his offensive value, but that’s a fairly big gamble. The Blue Jays are obviously going to return Bichette to shortstop and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to first base, and Santiago Espinal may have earned himself the third base gig for next season, but the infield will have plenty of questions if Semien is missing next spring.
Just as important as the hole he would leave in the lineup, the veteran’s presence would be sorely missed in the clubhouse as well. As I already mentioned, the model teammate was a huge influence on the young stars in the clubhouse, and it’s very clear that he’s well respected. That kind of leadership makes a huge difference, and it’s hard to measure just how significant it is.
It remains to be seen if the Blue Jays will be able to convince the 31 year old to come back and give up his shortstop position for good, but there’s no doubt that the organization has plenty of good reason to open up their chequebook to make it happen.