Today in Blue Jays History: Marcus Semien inks a one-year deal

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Stack
2 months ago
The 2021 Blue Jays had a rollercoaster ride of a season, but it also featured several standout individual seasons that many fans continue to dwell on. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Robbie Ray, Teoscar Hernandez, and Bo Bichette all posted career seasons, but there was one other guy who proved as valuable as anyone in baseball that season.
Enter Marcus Semien.
Semien was drafted twice by the Chicago White Sox, deciding not to sign as a 34th-rounder in 2008 but eventually signing in 2011 as a 6th-round selection. He made his debut as a White Sock in 2013 and would play through the 2014 season with Chicago. However, he was traded at the conclusion of that season along with current Blue Jay Chris Bassitt and multiple other players to the Oakland A’s in exchange for Jeff Samardzija.
Semien posted a few so-so seasons in Oakland, but he broke out in 2019, hitting 33 homers with 92 RBIs, an .892 OBP, and a team-best 8.5 WAR. He led the league in games played and plate appearances, and it all culminated in a third-place finish in the AL MVP voting.
During the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Semien took a few steps back, posting a .223/.305/.374 slash line across 53 games. Unfortunately, that is how he entered his first bout with free agency.
On January 30th, 2021, Semien and the Blue Jays officially reached an agreement on a one-year, $18 million deal. This acquisition flew somewhat under the radar, as it was made just days after Toronto signed George Springer to the largest deal in team history.
While Semien had experience at multiple infield positions, he had played the vast majority of games at shortstop. The Blue Jays already had Bo Bichette patrolling that position, so it was widely speculated that either Semien would accept playing second base, or Bichette would be moved somewhere else. The former wound up being the solution, and Semien would play at second base for the first time since 2014.
What followed all of the discussion and speculation was one of the most outstanding single-season individual performances in Blue Jays history. Semien played in every single game, slashing .265/.334/.538 with an .873 OPS, 45 home runs, 102 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 39 doubles, and a 7.1 WAR. He placed third in the AL MVP voting once again, trailing Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., his teammate. No second baseman in MLB history has hit more home runs in a single season than Semien did that year.
With the Jays fully healthy, Semien would bat in the 2-spot behind Springer, but Springer missed a lot of time in 2021 with quad and knee injuries. Because of that, Semien played 88 games batting leadoff for the Jays.
Semien had his fingerprints all over a couple of signature Blue Jays wins in 2021, none more impactful than a September 3rd matchup against the Oakland A’s, his former team. The Blue Jays had already rallied back from an 8-2 deficit by scoring 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th, but they gave the lead right back in the top of the 9th thanks to a 2-run home run from Mark Canha. Base hits from Breyvic Valera and Springer set the stage for Semien, who ended the game in storybook fashion.
On August 7th, 2021, Semien became the ninth Blue Jay to have a walk-off hit on a 0-0 count, launching a solo home run to beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0.
Not only was Semien prominent with the bat, he was equally as good with the glove, committing nine total errors in 2021. Unfortunately, he did own one of the most costly errors of the season, one that became a real “what if” for the 2021 Jays. With two outs in the ninth inning and the Blue Jays leading 2-1 on August 22nd, 2021 against the Detroit Tigers, Semien committed a throwing error on a relatively routine play on a throw to first. Detroit would tie the game on that play, and ultimately win the game.
At least from the fan’s eye, Semien developed a good relationship with Bo Bichette, his middle infield partner. During Spring Training of 2021, Bichette had nothing but positive remarks for the veteran. “He’s great at second base. I’ve said it a lot. He helps me a lot, works hard, pushes me, and so having him is awesome,” Bichette said. “The thing about him is he brings some sort of sense of calm to the infield. He’s been there and done it a lot.
Semien’s one-year deal with the Blue Jays was labelled by many as a “prove it” deal, and I think I speak for everyone when I say he did a lot of proving. Semien expectedly turned down Toronto’s qualifying offer and headed into free agency as one of the most sought-after names on the market. Robbie Ray, a teammate of Semien’s, was also a popular name in free agency. Ray had just won the 2021 AL Cy Young while also being on a one-year deal.
That offseason was an important one free agency-wise for the Blue Jays, who were looking to take another step forward in their pursuit of a championship. Semien was a potential suitor that could help the Blue Jays in that journey, however, he was going to be owed a lot more than an $18 million AAV that he had the last year. On December 1st, 2021, just one day before the MLB lockout, Semien signed a seven-year, $175 million contract with the Texas Rangers, ultimately pairing with free agent SS Corey Seager.
To conclude, Semien’s time in Toronto is something many fans will never forget, and it turned out to be an absolute steal of a one-year deal along with Ray. Semien continues to do “Semien things”, being a key contributor to Texas’ World Series run last season.


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