Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports Bay Area will theorize hypothetical front-office acquisitions for each of our teams. Today, we examine a potential move the A's could make.
Nobody wants Marcus Semien to stay with Oakland more than, well … Marcus Semien. But that might not be the case.
The Bay Area native and Cal grad made the inaugural All-MLB team in 2019, earning Second Team honors after slashing a .285/.369/.522 line with 33 home runs and 92 RBI. That was good for an .892 OPS. He also led the league with 747 plate appearances starting at shortstop in all 162 games.
As we face a standstill in the baseball world due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a chance we have seen Semien wear an A’s uniform for the final time, as 2020 is the final year on his contract. That means preparing for a departure from the 2019 third-place AL MVP. Someone like Didi Gregorius could make for a good option to fill that void in 2021.
Didi Gregorious to the A's on a three-year, $40 million contract.
Gregorius signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason. The slight drop in the monetary amount would be because of his ability to be an injury magnet.
Plus, the A’s historically have not given out long-term contracts to free agents in the past, but that could be beneficial to Gregorius. If the team couldn’t keep Semien, three years to a shortstop of Gregorius’ caliber feels fair and something Oakland could give.
The 30-year-old has been backed by A’s legend Reggie Jackson while Gregorius was with the New York Yankees. Gregorius himself has always been a leader and he did that while taking over for Derek Jeter during that time (2015-19).
“The players gravitate to him,” Jackson told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. That’s the type of role Semien plays in the Oakland clubhouse as the team’s main guy to refer messages from management to the rest of the players.
Gregorius’ eight-year career could be defined as a “rollercoaster,” but his lefty bat makes for an exciting option. One of the A’s main objectives during this offseason was to obtain a lefty infield bat. They did that and wanted to find a mainstay at the second base position. We still have to wait to see if they will use one starter or have a lefty bat such as Tony Kemp platooning with Franklin Baretto.
This could put that need to rest.
During those years with the Yankees, Gregorius proved that bat was very successful at Yankee Stadium. He also hit the ball harder in 2019 than the year previously. He did struggle to make contact -- his chase rate spiked from 36.2 percent to 41.1 percent -- that’s a career-high. He struck out more, but so did most of the league.
According to FanGraphs' Jay Jaffe, projection-wise, Didi is predicted to produce a 2.5 WAR (via ZiPS), which is “a performance that would be well worth the salary and would set the shortstop up for a multiyear deal.”
Last season with the Yankees, Gregorius played in just 82 games after suffering a right shoulder contusion. He also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018. He finished 2019 with a .238/.276/.441 line with 16 home runs and 61 RBI.
He’s projected to have a stronger season in 2020, as Baseball-Reference projects him to hit .274 with 49 hits in an abbreviated season.
We all want Semien back -- both parties have a mutual interest in an extension, but the money that’s being talked about in order to retain him might not in the cards for the A’s. Semien also hired new representation last August with the Wasserman Agency, meaning he would be aggressively seeking a big deal.
He’s irreplaceable in more ways than the numbers, but in the event that he leaves, it’s time to prepare for what could be next.