The Toronto Blue Jays might need to get creative in order to retain the services of free agent, Marcus Semien
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Back on January 30, 2021 when the Blue Jays signed free agent infielder Marcus Semien to a 1 year, $18 million contract, it’s doubtful that they could have envisioned just how good he would be in 2021.
Defensively Semien led all MLB second basemen in 2021 with a 8.5 DEF rating. His 131 wRC+ was third among all MLB second basemen. His overall fWAR of 6.6 will, in my opinion, see him finish 3rd in AL MVP voting.
But that’s not all they got from Semien. He was durable, playing in all 162 games. He also provided some much needed leadership to one of the younger teams in baseball. His 2021 double play partner, SS Bo Bichette, when asked after the season what it meant to him playing along side Semien, replied that it “meant a lot to him”.
The Jays want to build on a season that saw them fall short of a playoff spot by just one game. In order to do so, it would help a great deal to bring Marcus Semien back.
That could be easier said than done however. Coming off of an outstanding season, there will no doubt be considerable demand for his services. He has said he has interest in returning to the Jays. On the other hand, it’s a well known fact that his family lives on the west coast. He may not want to uproot them, or be separated from them, for half of the year over the next several years.
So what would the Jays need to do to bring Semien back?
It isn’t likely that Semien will get the kind of mega deal that some of the game’s top stars have gotten in recent years (example – 22 year old Fernando Tatis jr signed a 14 year, $340 million contract with the Padres). One reason for that is his age. Semien turned 31 on September 17th. The other is the up and down career he has had. The nine year MLB veteran has had only surpassed 100 wRC+ in two seasons, 2019 and 2021. Fortunately for Semien those are two of the last three seasons, and the last two 162 game seasons.
Here is my thought for a creative way to retain his services. The Jays should offer Semien a multi year contract, heavily front loaded salary wise, and include an opt out after the first and second years. The Jays currently have roughly $65 million in payroll commitments for the 2022 season. Their core of young players isn’t expensive yet but they will be in the next few seasons as they become arbitration eligible. Further, if the Jays want to offer Semien a large sum of money, it makes sense to pay him a lot in the first 1-2 years, while he is more likely to still be playing at a high level.
One possible salary structure could look like this:
Year 1 – $40 million
Year 2 – $35 million
Year 3 – $20 million
Year 4 – $15 million
Year 5 – $15 million
Why might Semien accept that deal? A number of reasons. He would be guaranteed $125 million dollars, which, in addition to his career earnings to date, should make him set for life financially. It brings him back to a team he has expressed interest in staying with. It also gives him control over his own destiny. He already signed one free agent contract with the Jays. While he might not be willing to leave the west coast for several more seasons, would he consider one more? To play for a team with a legitimate chance at a championship? Then in a year from now, if he so chooses, he can opt out, leave with a ton of money for one season, hopefully a championship ring, and play for a west coast team.
A contract structure like this would also give Semien the best of both worlds in terms of earnings. Assuming his game were to decline, he would do no worse than this contract. But if he continues to play very well, he could also opt out and re-sign for a higher amount. Stephen Strasburg did this previously with the Washington Nationals.
So why might the Blue Jays consider a deal such as this? Only Semien knows for certain what he will and won’t consider but it is reasonable to think that if his next contract is with a non-west coast team that he might want the commitment to be short term. If I’m the Jays front office and my choice is one more year of Semien or zero more years, well I know which way I would go.
It will be an interesting off season for the Blue Jays as they look to re-tool in the hopes of a deep playoff run in 2022. Here’s hoping management finds a way to make Semien a part of it.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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