Athletics

How Didi Gregorius could fit A's in free agency if Marcus Semien leaves

How Didi Gregorius could fit A's in free agency if Marcus Semien leaves

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.

The deal

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.

[RELATED: Ex-A's pitcher Bartolo Colon still wants to play at 46]

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.

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

Ramón Laureano: Everything to know about A's do-it-all outfielder

One thing that most of us reading this never will have to do is test Ramón Laureano's defense in center field. We can thank our lucky stars for that.

He also had possibly one of the best catches of the season in 2019 when -- well, just watch:

Shameless NBC Sports California plug aside, Laureano made that catch look easy, robbing Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto of a home run in the process.

So we know he can catch, he can throw, he can hit and do all of the typical baseball things. But what else?

The numbers

It has to be said we have yet to see the best of Laureano.

The 25-year-old slashed .288/.340/.521 last season which, was good for an .860 OPS.

Then there’s that arm. 

Laureano is properly nicknamed “Lazor” for the way he’s able to dart a ball from the deepest point of center field to anywhere there was a runner attempting to get an extra bag.

It was one night in August 2018 against the Los Angeles Angels when an “Oh my God!” was shouted by NBC Sports California’s Dallas Braden on the broadcast to see Laureano throw from center TO FIRST BASE for a double play. At 321 feet, it had been the longest throw to complete a double play in the Statcast era.


The background

Born in the Dominican Republic, Laureano was drafted out of Northeast Oklahoma A&M in the 16th round of the MLB draft by the Houston Astros in 2014, and was traded to the A’s in 2017 for minor leaguer Brandon Bailey. He made his A’s big league debut on Aug. 3, 2018, against Detroit. 

When Laureano was a younger prospect, he was compared to another Astros youngster Teoscar Hernandez in a scouting report by MLB Pipeline in 2017, but was said to be more of a “pure hitter" with less power potential. He was also called an “above average defender,” which we already knew.

If you’re a fantasy baseball player, he’s also listed as a top-30 outfielder heading into the 2020 season.

Now for the important stuff

Long-time friend of Laureano, Ricky Rivera, gave NBC Sports California some details about the star-studded outfielder’s off-the-field hobbies.

During quarantine, Laureano picked up golf and really wanted to perfect his craft at playing the video game MLB: The Show. He was playing the game a lot during quarantine to pass the time and had a group of eight or so guys get together and play. It sounds like it got quite competitive as well.

He’s also a dog lover, as Rivera described. Which at first, he didn’t think was a very random fact about Laureano, but we can all agree dog people are the best people.

[RELATED: A's hilariously sport Mike Fiers' facial hair facemask]

If you look anywhere for content written about Laureano, one notion that sticks out is his work ethic. In an interview with Rivera, who played with him at Northeast Oklahoma A&M, he said even though they were on the same team, Laureano would arrive at practice hours earlier. He was probably also the last one to leave.

“He’s always working out or talking baseball,” Rivera said.

It shows. 

A's tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes Astros, Dodgers in opening week

A's tentative 2021 MLB schedule includes Astros, Dodgers in opening week

Before 2020’s regular season officially has begun, MLB announced the tentative schedules of all 30 clubs for the 2021 season on Thursday. The A’s open up the 2021 campaign at home against the Houston Astros on April 1.

This also will be the first time since 1968 all 30 teams will play their first game of the season on the same day.

April also will see the A's face the possibly Mookie Betts-less Los Angeles Dodgers right after the opening series against the Astros. After that, the A's head to Minute Maid Park for another duel with the Astros. That’s quite a competitive sandwich. But the balls tend to fly there which is a boost for the A's. 

For the most part, the 2021 season is expected to be regularly-scheduled programming after the odd 2020 60-game season caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

If things stay the same, which is never the case in baseball, there shouldn’t be too many surprises for Oakland next season as far as the competitive circuit goes. 

The Battle of Bay against the geographically rivaled Giants will take place three times in 2021. The first being an exhibition series, as the teams usually play, taking place on March 28-29. During the regular season, they will meet back at Oracle Park on June 25-27 and later at the Coliseum on Aug. 20-22. After that, the New York Yankees come to town on Aug. 26-28. 

The A’s will also host the Boston Red Sox on July 4th and wrap up the season on the road against the Astros on Oct. 1-3.

[RELATED: A's alternate 2020 site could be Giants affiliate's park]

Here’s a look at the entire tentative schedule: