What a brutal day to be an A’s fan.
In a matter of hours on Tuesday, the outlook on the team’s middle infield turned from dim to grim.
First came the news of Marcus Semien’s one-year, $18 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Then NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Tommy La Stella was nearing a multi-year agreement with the Giants, of all teams. Minutes later, reports surfaced of Andrelton Simmons’ new contract with the Minnesota Twins.
Each of the three moves affects the A’s next season to a varying degree.
Semien’s departure was expected but still stings. The Bay Area native struggled in last year’s abbreviated season, so his short-term deal with Toronto seems like something of a tryout to get a multi-year contract in 2022. It might seem like forever ago due to the pandemic, but Semien finished third in the 2019 AL MVP voting while playing a premium position.
The 30-year-old shortstop joins a potent Blue Jays lineup that likely will score plenty of runs next season after adding George Springer on a six-year, $150 million deal last week. So it’s a smart career move for Semien, who cashed in a bigger contract than what the A’s traditionally pay. Aside from his production and reliability, Semien’s steadfast, professional presence in the locker room will be missed in Oakland.
La Stella made a great impression during his 34-game stint with the A’s following a midseason trade from the Los Angeles Angels. The versatile infielder set the tone at the top of the lineup with his keen eye, low strikeout rate and intensity. Now Oakland will likely rely on a combination of Chad Pinder, Tony Kemp and Vimael Machin at second base.
But some A’s fans have to be wondering, “Really, Tommy? You couldn’t have signed with another team?”
Without Semien, the A’s best route to filling their gaping hole at shortstop is via free agency. Simmons seemed like a logical fit for Oakland, but his accord with the Twins was reported merely two hours after Semien’s with the Blue Jays. And the one-year, $10.5 million price tag is high for the A’s but certainly within the realm of possibility.
So, what are the A’s going to do at shortstop in 2021? That’s a great question. The best in-house option would probably be Nick Allen, who was rid of a minor league season last year and probably doesn’t possess an MLB-caliber bat just yet. The 22-year-old hasn’t played above the advanced Single-A level, but his smooth glovework could be his ticket to break spring training with the big-league club.
Technically, Groundhog Day isn’t until next Tuesday, but A’s fans are probably used to this exodus of talent during the offseason. Until something changes, players like Liam Hendriks, Semien and La Stella likely will always leave for a bigger payday via free agency.
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson are under club control for the next three seasons, but their salaries will surely escalate each year in arbitration. Unless the front office decides to lock them up to long-term deals, the clock is ticking on the A’s to capitalize on this current window of talent.