Any reasons why Phillies should prefer free-agent SS Marcus Semien over Didi?


The Phillies spent over $700 million on free agents the last three offseasons. Spending all over baseball could be impacted this winter by revenues lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not going to stop us from taking a daily look these next few weeks at some free agents who would fill needs and help the Phillies get better.

Today: Shortstop Marcus Semien

Career to date

Semien was drafted by the White Sox in 2011 and traded three years later with Chris Bassitt and Josh Phegley to Oakland for Jeff Samardzija, a trade that worked out extremely well for the Athletics.

Semien made major strides during his six years with the Athletics, transforming himself from a liability at shortstop to a strong defender. He committed 35 errors in 2015 compared to an average of 15.5 the next four years. Since 2018, his defensive metrics at shortstop rate among the league's best.

Semien had a career year in 2019 and certainly wishes he reached free agency a year ago. He finished third in AL MVP voting in '19, hitting .285/.369/.522 with 43 doubles, 33 homers and 92 RBI. He played all 162 games, 161 of them at short.

That was the only big offensive year of Semien's career. He's hit .246 with a .710 OPS in his other seven seasons.

2020 season

Semien's defense graded out well for the third straight year but he had a poor summer offensively, hitting .223/.305/.374 in 236 plate appearances.

He was not the dynamic hitter he was the year prior. Interested teams will have to weigh the likelihood Semien returns to that 2019 level over the next few years or will be 60-75% of it.


How he’d impact the Phillies

The Phillies have a hole at shortstop with Didi Gregorius reaching free agency after producing on a one-year deal. They could shuffle pieces around, moving Jean Segura back to shortstop and Scott Kingery to second base, or they could maintain flexibility by bringing in a solid veteran shortstop.

From a Phillies perspective, there would be little reason to opt for Semien over Gregorius. The Phils just saw what kind of impact Gregorius can have on this lineup. His left-handed bat fits well into the middle of their order and he was a hit with the fanbase.

Contract outlook

Semien's agent, Joel Wolfe, recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that his client has nine-figure value. It is next to impossible, however, that Semien receives a $100 million contract this offseason with Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons out there, Francisco Lindor available via trade and five of baseball's best shortstops set for free agency in a year.

Semien is more likely to find a two- or three-year deal this winter. He is 30 years old and seven months younger than Gregorius.

With the two on track for similar contracts, the Phillies' preference should be (and probably is) Gregorius. He and Semien could both be in line for three-year deals in the $39-45 million range.

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