It took until January, but the hot stove finally appears to be churning.
According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic, the Philadelphia Phillies – along with the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics – “have all been involved to some extent in negotiations with free-agent infielder Marcus Semien.”
Semien, 30, would take over as the starting shortstop for the Phillies if signed. Though Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported yesterday that the Phillies remain “engaged” with Didi Gregorius, it makes sense both from the standpoint of leverage in negotiations with Gregorius and for having a fall-back option to consider Semien.
While Gregorius had a bounce-back season in Philadelphia in 2020, Semien was underwhelming offensively this past season, slashing .223/.305/.374 in 53 games in 2020. However, Semien did hit .407 and homer twice in seven postseason games. It’s also important to remember that over the course of a full season in 2019, Semien hit .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs, 92 RBIs, an .892 OPS and a 7.6 fWAR, en route to a third-place finish in American League MVP.
2019 may prove to be something of an outlier for Semien offensively, although it does stand to reason that his production this past season would have improved if the season wasn’t only 60 games long. The right-handed hitter, in all likelihood, would represent something of a downgrade from Gregorius at the plate, although the 2019 season does tantalize you.
Traditionally, Semien has been a significantly better fielder than Gregorius. However, despite posting a combined 26 defensive runs saved over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Semien was worth -5 defensive runs saved in 2020. Gregorius was worth -2 defensive runs saved.
In many senses, a signing of Semien would be banking on him having a bounce-back year, not that dissimilar from what the thinking was in inking Gregorius to a deal last winter. He’ll almost certainly never match his production from 2019, but you’d like to think there would be some sort of medium between 2019 and 2020.
Another potential advantage in signing Semien would be that he’s likely going to sign a one-year deal, hoping to rebuild his value. It’s unclear at this stage if Gregorius will ultimately command multiple years, but certainly that’s what he’s targeting.
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