Blue Jays, Semien finalize 1-year deal

January 30th, 2021

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays continued their aggressive offseason on Tuesday, agreeing to terms on a one-year, $18 million deal with infielder . The agreement, first reported earlier this week, was announced by the club on Saturday.

On the heels of signing star outfielder George Springer to a six-year, $150 million contract, the addition of Semien further elevates a lineup that’s now stacked with offensive threats from top to bottom and loaded with potential.

Semien has played exclusively as a shortstop for the A’s since 2015, but the initial expectation is that he will spend the majority of his time at second for the Blue Jays, a position he last played in 2014 with the White Sox. This would create some interesting scenarios for the Blue Jays, as Cavan Biggio could potentially handle more reps at third base or take on the super utility role he’s so well suited for.

When both Semien and Bichette are healthy, of course, Semien can easily slide back over to short when Bichette needs a rare day of rest. He’s capable of handling some third base, as well, and on any team managed by Charlie Montoyo, the ability to move around the diamond isn’t just valued, but used regularly.

As one of the top position players remaining on the free agent market, Semien’s bat is the primary attraction, with the hope that the 30-year-old can get back to his 2019 form.

Semien tore the cover off the baseball that season, hitting .285 with 33 home runs and an OPS of .892. This earned Semien a third-place finish in American League MVP voting, behind only Alex Bregman and Mike Trout, and represented a significant jump for him after posting a career .713 OPS over the first six years of his career. With 7.6 WAR (FanGraphs), Semien was among the league’s elite players that year.

The shortened 2020 season wasn’t nearly as kind to Semien, with a .679 OPS, but that was largely due to a slow start through late July and early August. While the Blue Jays are betting on Semien to recapture that 2019 form, the one-year agreement also makes sense for Semien, as he has an opportunity to prove that was not an outlier and re-enter the market next offseason.

In the bigger picture, this significantly deepens the Blue Jays’ lineup and represents another win-now move for an organization that has lowered its shoulder this offseason. While some expected the first infield addition to come at third base -- which is still possible -- the infield has long represented a potential opportunity for the Blue Jays, who primarily played Travis Shaw at the hot corner alongside their young core in 2020.

A shorter-term commitment on the infield also lines up well for the Blue Jays given the state of their farm system. No. 2 prospect Austin Martin, the club’s fifth overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, and No. 3 prospect Jordan Groshans could both be pushing for their Major League debut at some point in 2022. In a perfect world, the Blue Jays can bridge the gap to that talented next wave, but they will be able to evaluate that much more clearly by the end of the 2021 season.

Along with Springer and this agreement with Semien, the Blue Jays have bolstered their bullpen with the recent additions of Tyler Chatwood and Kirby Yates. The financial flexibility remains to continue this aggression, too, with the starting rotation believed to be a high priority as the club seeks an arm to complement ace Hyun Jin Ryu and No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson.