Blue Jays rumors: Toronto pushing all-in with Marcus Semien deal

Free agent shortstop Marcus Semien. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Free agent shortstop Marcus Semien. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

After years of making offers to free agents only to see those players leverage those offers into bigger contracts elsewhere, new Blue Jays rumors make it apparent they are no longer playing around in Toronto. The latest reports have the Toronto Blue Jays agreeing to a large one-year deal with former Oakland A’s shortstop Marcus Semien.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network was first to report the agreement, with Jeff Passan of ESPN citing a source telling him the contract is only for one-year, but calls for $18 million.

Semien is one of many players who struggled through the COVID-19 season in 2020, but it’s worth noting he was a top-three finisher in the American League MVP voting just a season earlier.

In 2019, Semien played in all 162 games and led the majors with 747 plate appearances en route to a .285/.369/.522 slash line with 43 doubles, seven triples, 33 home runs, 92 RBI and 123 runs scored.

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Blue Jays rumors: Marcus Semien moving to other side of middle infield

While he’s been a regular shortstop the last six seasons, since the A’s got him as part of the package in the December 2014 trade that sent Jeff Samardzjia to the Chicago White Sox, the Blue Jays are reportedly looking at Semien to play second base with Bo Bichette remaining at shortstop, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

While he had some stumbles defensively when he first got to Oakland, leading AL shortstops with 35 errors in 2015 and posting league-high error totals in both 2016 (21) and 2017 (20), he settled in well in 2018, when he was third among major-league shortstops with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, per FanGraphs. In 2019, he tied for fifth with 12 DRS.

It’s a one-year deal for Semien, which reduces some of Toronto’s risk, but they are gambling on the 2019 Semien being the real one. The 30-year-old had never hit better than .257 in a full season prior to his breakout campaign and before his .892 OPS in 2019, his previous career-high was .735 in 2016.

Last season, Semien slipped to a .223 average and .679 OPS in 53 games and 236 plate appearances, with nine doubles, seven homers and 23 RBI.

He did have a big postseason, going 3-for-12 with a homer and two RBI as the A’s came from behind to eliminate the White Sox in the Wild-Card Series before terrorizing the Houston Astros in the ALDS by going 8-for-15 with four runs scored, a homer and two RBI while also drawing three walks.

Blue Jays rumors: Big moves over last week

The Semien signing comes on the heels of a very busy week last week in Toronto, with the Blue Jays landing former All-Star closer Kirby Yates and taking a flyer on right-hander Tyler Chatwood for the bullpen before landing one of the biggest prizes in free agency this winter by getting George Springer to play center field on a six-year, $150 million contract.

If this doesn’t vault the Jays to the top of the American League East, it certainly puts them in the mix after a third-place finish at 32-28 last season and being eliminated in a two-game sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild-Card Series.

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Tampa Bay traded Blake Snell as the team’s never-ending battle to the death with payroll concerns, while the New York Yankees re-signed DJ LeMahieu and landed pitcher Jameson Taillon in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.