When Marcus Semien signed with the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2021 season, it provided an opportunity for the team and player to potentially resurrect his career.
Semien, who finished third in MVP voting in 2019, was coming off a rough 2020, where he put up a career-low .223 batting average to go along with a .679 OPS, his lowest total since his second MLB season back in 2014.
Signing a one-year deal worth $18 million with the Blue Jays, Semien was lights out with Toronto, hitting 46 home runs — a new record for MLB second basemen — while finishing third in MVP voting once again, behind teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani.
It was a remarkable season in Toronto, but it might’ve just gone a little too well — Semien departed in November 2021 for the Texas Rangers on a seven-year, $175 million contract that takes him through 2028, when he’ll be 37 years old.
It’s a massive deal, but Semien’s individual performance in 2023 seems to be justifying the hefty price tag for Texas, and perhaps Toronto’s front office is left wondering if they could’ve been a little more aggressive to retain the star infielder.
Now in his second season with the Rangers, Semien leads all MLB players in WAR — Wins Above Replacement — putting up a .301 batting average with 59 hits, seven home runs, 39 RBIs and 44 runs scored in 48 games this season. His OPS+ mark of 139 is the highest of his career, while his defensive WAR of 0.9 ranks tenth in all of baseball.
And to top it off, Semien’s Rangers are leading the AL West with a record of 30-18, while the Jays sit at the bottom of the hypercompetitive AL East at 26-23.
Sure, there’s still more than two-thirds of the season left to be played, but it’s hard to argue against how well Semien’s played this season — and how, in an ideal world, Toronto probably could use him right now.
Toronto, of course, has still added some sizeable talent since Semien’s departure: most notably, a trade for third baseman Matt Chapman, who’s having a career year, as well as the additions of Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho that have transformed the Blue Jays’ outfield defence from a weakness to a team strength.
And Semien’s replacement at second base — Santiago Espinal — has been no slouch either, making his first All-Star game in 2022, although he’s currently on the injured list.
It’s sensible why the Jays were hesitant to offer Semien a massive extension: he’s had a history of up and down play, evidenced in no small part by his 19-homer dropoff from 2021 to 2022, where he also saw his OPS drop from .867 all the way to .733.
While they haven’t signed yet, Toronto is no doubt planning to spend big money to keep the likes of Bo Bichette and Guerrero Jr. long-term while having also committed sizeable contracts to George Springer and Jose Berrios over the past few seasons.
But for a team with World Series aspirations, every player on the roster matters.
And though the contract realities might’ve prevented Semien from staying in Toronto, it’s a gut punch to see him thriving for a longstanding rival.
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