MLB's hot stove season has been exceedingly cold this winter, but that hasn't stopped the free-agency rumors from swirling.
The A's in particular have been a team of conversation -- both because of who they might lose and who they might gain. As the chance of Marcus Semien returning looks slimmer by the day, The Athletic's Jim Bowden offered up a fellow American League West opponent in Andrelton Simmons as a solution at shortstop.
How exactly would this work? Let's break it down.
In a perfect world, Oakland wouldn't have to fret about offering a contract extension to Semien, who played a critical role in Oakland's team chemistry -- and the team's last three playoff runs. Semien played in all 162 regular season games in 2019, putting up an 8.9 WAR and finishing third in American League MVP voting.
However, the 30-year-old faltered in the shortened 2020 season, posting a career-low batting average at .233. Still, over his last six seasons in Oakland, the Berkeley, Calif. native's leadership in the clubhouse is unmatched as he's cemented himself as an integral part of his hometown organization.
Unfortunately for the A's, it doesn't look like Oakland will be able to strike a deal to retain Semien, despite how badly members of the team wish to. The A's didn't offer a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer to Semien in October, but both general manager David Forst and manager Bob Melvin have stressed how highly they want Semien to return. In order for that to occur, the A's front office would likely have to spend some major money. Given their past spending history, that's not likely to happen, especially after a COVID-19-related, economically devastating 2020.
So, it makes sense to ponder who could fill Semien's place, and Simmons certainly fits that role. At 31 years old, Simmons owns nine years of Major League experience, but finds himself entering free agency for the first time in his career. He's spent the last five seasons as the Los Angeles Angels' starting shortstop, where's he quickly made a name for himself under his defensive prowess. He's a four-time Gold Glove award winner (and took home a Platinum Glove award in 2013).
Defensively speaking, Simmons is an upgrade and might be the best defensive shortstop in the league. Plus, the allure that comes with an infield that contains Simmons, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson is certainly not a shabby one by any means.
Offensively, Simmons offers a high-contact bat with a knack for reaching base. He put up a .297/.346/.356 slash line in 30 games in 2020, despite missing a significant portion of the 60-game season with a sprained left ankle in late July. Simmons won't be a player who hits the long ball often -- he hit 36 homers in his five seasons with the Angels -- but he doesn't strike out much either. In fact, in 127 plate appearances last year, Simmons struck out just 16 times.
The free agent market at shortstop is pretty thin this offseason, and there aren't many other stopgap solutions for Oakland. Following Semien, Didi Gregorius is probably the most prestigious option, but if the A's can't afford Semien, they likely can't afford Gregorius either. Freddy Galvis offers defensive potential, but statistically, his offensive production pales in comparison to the others.
All in all, the best free agent solution for the A's is ... still Semien. Both parties want Semien to remain in the Bay Area, but (as the story often goes in Oakland) financial feasibility will have the final say with the front office. Until then, as A's fans cling to far-fetched hopes of Semien's return, considering Simmons in green and gold might be the most optimal solution.