Athletics

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Marcus Semien

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Marcus Semien

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Marcus Semien was a staple at shortstop for the A's in 2018, playing in 159 of the team's 162 games. Semien slashed .255/.318/.388 with 15 home runs and 70 RBI. He set career highs with 161 hits, 35 doubles, 89 runs, and 14 stolen bases.

Semien, 28, also had the best defensive season of his career, ranking third among American League shortstops with nine defensive runs saved. He and the A's avoided arbitration last season, agreeing to a $3.125 million deal. This year, Semien is projected to get a healthy raise to $6.6 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Semien has turned into a solid all-around shortstop. He provides power, speed, and defense, and is entering his prime at 28 years old. His 4.3 WAR was the best of his career and tied for third among AL shortstops.

Semien is also extremely durable. having played at least 155 games in three of his four seasons with the A's. The Bay Area native can also hit just about anywhere in the order.

Why he might be too pricey

Only Khris Davis earned more than $6.6 million this past season in Oakland, so it's certainly a high price to pay. While Semien has both power and speed, he's not superb in either area. He recorded a .706 OPS this season, 22 points below the league average.

We've talked about 22-year-old Franklin Barreto as an option at second base if the A's don't re-sign Jed Lowrie, but Barreto can play shortstop too. Oakland could surprise everyone by keeping Lowrie and letting Semien go, allowing Barreto to take over an everyday role at short.

Verdict

While Barreto is an intriguing option at shortstop, you still have to think Semien will be back in Oakland next season. At the age of 28, he is just entering his prime and his defensive improvement has turned him into a valuable all-around player. Semien's durability and versatility in the lineup also help his case to earn that $6.6 million figure. Of course, there's always a chance the two sides agree to a deal to avoid arbitration like last season. Stay tuned.

Revisiting A's signing of Grant Balfour in free agency eight years ago

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Revisiting A's signing of Grant Balfour in free agency eight years ago

January 18, 2011 officially marked the beginning of "Balfour Rage."

The A's signed Australian relief pitcher Grant Balfour to a two-year, $8 million contract with a $4.5 million option for a third year. Balfour, who was 33 years old at the time, had spent the previous four seasons with Tampa Bay, seeing mixed results.

The right-hander was coming off a strong season in 2010, however, going 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 57 appearances. He had never been a closer in his big league career, but averaged better than a strikeout per inning as a setup man.

Performance

Balfour had a strong 2011 season in Oakland in a setup role. He went 5-2 with two saves and a 2.47 ERA, striking out 59 in 62 innings. Balfour eventually took over the closer role in 2012 and recorded 24 saves in 26 opportunities with a 2.53 ERA.

The A's exercised Balfour's option in 2013 and he posted a career-high 38 saves in 41 opportunities with a 2.59 ERA, earning his first and only All-Star appearance. He also set the A's franchise record with 41 consecutive saves converted.

Balfour quickly became a fan favorite, known for his fiery passion and screaming of profanities on the mound. "Balfour Rage," as it became known, sometimes rubbed batters the wrong way, but Balfour insisted it was just his way of pumping himself up. Needless to say, A's fans loved it.

[RELATED: How A's could learn from Coco Crisp signing nine years ago]

Lesson

The Balfour signing was a great success for Oakland. In three seasons, he went 9-7 with 64 saves and a 2.53 ERA. For just over $12 million, that was a bargain.

Balfour proved to be a late developer in his career. He didn't really put it all together until he was in his 30s. While the A's signed Balfour to be a setup man, they were open to an increased role for him and eventually he earned the closer job.

Of course, Balfour's personality was a big part of his success in Oakland. "Balfour Rage" resonated with fans and teammates alike. That became his identity and both he and his team embraced it.

2019 free agent comparison

It's not exactly "Balfour Rage," but Sergio Romo is quite flamboyant on the mound. Like Balfour, Romo wears his emotions on his sleeve and gets fired up when he records an important out, sometimes bothering hitters.

Romo, 35, went 3-4 with 25 saves and a 4.14 ERA last season with the Rays. For his career, the right-handed reliever owns a 2.86 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, averaging well over a strikeout per inning.

A's 2019 Projections: Josh Phegley could start unless team makes moves

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A's 2019 Projections: Josh Phegley could start unless team makes moves

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Unless the A's add another catcher, Josh Phegley is poised to get the most playing time of his big league career. Phegley and Chris Herrmann are currently the only catchers on the A's active roster and they figure to platoon behind the plate.

Last season, Phegley hit .204/.255/.344 with two home runs, seven doubles, and 15 RBI in 39 games. The 30-year-old re-signed with the A's in November for one year at $1.075 million.

Phegley has a career slash line of .223/.264/.372. His best season came in 2015 when he hit .249/.300/.449 with a career-high nine homers and 34 RBI.

Phegley has performed slightly better against left-handed pitching throughout his career, hitting .243/.279/.414. The right-handed hitter figures to get most of next season's at-bats against southpaws, with Herrmann starting against righties.

Phegley has also been solid defensively throughout his career, maintaining a .992 fielding percentage and throwing out 33 percent of attempted base stealers, five points above the league average.

Baseball Reference projects Phegley to hit .223/.285/.368 next year with six home runs, 15 doubles, and 28 RBI. They estimate him at 242 at-bats, which would be a career-high.

[RELATED: Chris Herrmann 2019 projections]

Phegley has done everything the A's have asked of him over the years and proven to be a consistent player and great clubhouse presence. We expect a slight improvement from last season, especially if he gets increased playing time.

Projection: .227/.297/.374, 6 HR, 12 doubles, 27 RBI