The Cincinnati Reds have really only stated one thing that they planned on doing this offseason and that’s to acquire a shortstop for 2021. After losing Freddy Galvis to free agency, and deciding that prospect Jose Garcia needed more time in the minors to continue his offensive development, Cincinnati needed to hit the free agent market or trade market in order to find someone to take over the position for now (and perhaps into the future depending on who would be acquired). It was nearly a month ago we heard that the Reds had talked to Didi Gregorius. Today, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and The Athletic noted that Cincinnati has also been involved with Marcus Semien.
This offseason is a good time to be looking for a shortstop. We’ve discussed it on the digital pages of Redleg Nation many times already, but the options are there at the top of the market if you’re willing to pay the price (either in dollars in free agency or in trade capital on the trade market). To this point the only shortstop to come off of the board is Korean-born Ha-seong Kim, who signed with the San Diego Padres.
When it comes to Marcus Semien he’s coming off of what is arguably his worst season in his big league career. In 53 games for Oakland last season he hit just .223/.305/.374. Of course it was just two seasons ago where he was an MVP candidate for the Athletics, hitting .285/.369/.522 with 83 extra-base hits while putting up 8.9 WAR (Baseball Reference version).
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down career for Marcus Semien. Since becoming an every day player in 2015 with Oakland he’s alternated below-average and above-average years with the exception of back-to-back above-average seasons in 2018 (4.7 WAR) and 2019. He’ll be 30-years-old for almost the entirety of the 2021 season – he will turn 31 in late September.
MLB Trade Rumors, right as the offseason was beginning, predicted a 1-year and $14M deal for Marcus Semien. They had the shortstop signing with the Los Angeles Angels, but noted that the Reds were among teams that could be in the running.
ZiPS liked Marcus Semien to rebound from his 2020 season some, but not return to what he did in the 2019 campaign, either. His current projection for the 2021 season is .257/.333/.442 – good for an OPS+ of 111 – and a 4.2 WAR, which is All-Star level production. To put an OPS+ of 111 into more context for Great American Ballpark, rather than the projection that is based on playing in Oakland’s cavernous confines, that’s roughly an .800 OPS in Cincinnati.
A 1-year deal would be perfect for the Reds. They still seem to believe in Jose Garcia as the future option at shortstop, and a year could be enough time for him to gain some more experience against advanced pitching and potentially have him ready to take over the spot in the big leagues in 2022. With the market being as slow as it has been, maybe the deal would even be for less money than the projected $14M that MLB Trade Rumors had to start the offseason.
For Marcus Semien, though, that’s a deal he probably wasn’t hoping for when he entered free agency. A down year, granted even in a shortened season, didn’t help. Toss in that about five teams in baseball seem to be trying to win and it’s really pushed the competition for talent down, and thus, contract offers, too. But if you are going to sign a 1-year deal, there are a lot of places worse than Great American Ballpark to head to and try to establish yourself once again and hit free agency with some strong offensive numbers, even if you do happen to be a year older.