Athletics

Why Dodgers reportedly are eying Semien to play third base

Athletics
Marcus Semien, A's

MLB's hot stove has caught fire at rapid pace over the last few weeks, and there's no shortage of rumors surrounding where free agent Marcus Semien could end up. 

Semien has been linked to various teams around the league, including a possible reunion with the A's, with both parties reportedly interested in keeping the fan favorite in Oakland. However, the A's declined to offer Semien a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer in October, and the sense around the league is that the 30-year-old will sign for much higher than what the A's will offer. 

Should the A's want to retain their star shortstop, they will need to act quickly. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported the Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in Semien as a possible third base option if the club can't re-sign free agent Justin Turner, who has manned the hot corner for LA since 2014. 

It wouldn't be the most natural fit for Semien, but it would make sense for LA. Here's why. 

Although the Dodgers are certainly not opposed to a reunion with Turner, they've also composed a list of infield alternatives. Rosenthal reported LA's interest in second baseman DJ LeMahieu, but the three-time All-Star reportedly inked a six-year, $90 million deal in his return to the New York Yankees. This would point to retaining Turner as the most logical option for LA, but the Dodgers still remain interested in Semien, believing that he possesses enough defensive capabilities to be an option at third, or a roaming utility man around the infield.

 

True, Semien has played just 50 games at third base in his eight-year Major League career, and the last time he did so was in 2014 with the Chicago White Sox. His last 769 games, all with the A's, have been played at shortstop. From LA's perspective, however, it would logistically make sense to move Semien around the infield, especially when the Dodgers have two-time All-Star and 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager cemented at shortstop.

The Dodgers are renowned for their lineup flexibility, often using multiple players at multiple positions throughout a season. Signing Semien would continue that trend, as they could employ him at second base, shortstop or third base. After a stellar 2019 where he finished third in American League MVP voting, Semien's 2020 was subpar at best, but there's little doubt he can't return to some semblance of his MVP-caliber season.

Semien posted a noteworthy .285/.369/.522 performance in 2019, but regressed to a .223/.305/.374 line in the shortened 60-game 2020 season. More puzzling though is that his usually prolific defense slipped to among baseball's worst. After tying with Willy Adames and Andrelton Simmons for the fifth-most defensive runs saved (DRS) with 12 in 2019, Semien reverted back with minus-5 DRS in 2020, ranking in baseball's bottom tier. 

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Both are causes for concern, but it's far from fair to evaluate Semien's performance based on a truncated season, especially when he powered through injuries for a significant portion of the year. He's still a premier target in the free agency market. But his lower numbers, combined with the allure of a powerhouse 2022 free agent class -- which could include Seager -- points to a one-year deal being the most favorable. It shouldn't be hard for Semien to land a considerable offer, and use the 2021 season to propel him towards a longer deal in 2022.

A one-year deal is well in the Dodgers' realm, but it's equally as possible for the A's. A Bay Area native, Semien has previously stressed his desire to remain in Oakland, where he's a leader in both the clubhouse and the community. A's general manager David Forst and manager Bob Melvin have also expressed their wishes to keep him, and the longer the offseason stretches out without another organization's offer, the likelier it is the two sides can strike a deal. 

Semien is more suited at shortstop, and best suited in Oakland. However, the Dodgers are no strangers to shelling out cash, and if they want Semien, they'll pay for him. With free-agency dominoes falling faster and faster and the reported Spring Training start date closing in, it's just a matter of time before Semien finds a home, wherever that might be. 

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