With third baseman Matt Chapman and shortstop Marcus Semien, the left side of the Athletics’ infield is among the most productive in baseball. The fact that the two combine to make less than $6MM (almost all of which belongs to Semien) only adds to their appeal from the low-budget Athletics’ perspective. But their days of earning relatively meager salaries might not last for much longer. Both players are candidates for contract extensions, though Semien will reach free agency after next season if nothing comes together between him and Oakland in the meantime.
To this point, the A’s haven’t handed out a longer or richer contract than the six-year, $66MM extension they signed third baseman Eric Chavez to entering the 2004 campaign. They now have a new standout at the hot corner in Chapman, a Scott Boras client who could eventually unseat Chavez as the recipient of the biggest deal in team history. It’s “believed” the Athletics are considering making Chapman an offer for longer than the one Chavez signed 15 years ago, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Fortunately for the Athletics, there’s no imminent danger of losing Chapman. The 26-year-old isn’t even slated to reach arbitration for the first time until after 2020, and once he does, he’ll still be controllable for three seasons. Nevertheless, though, the A’s may want to get out in front of the arbitration process with Chapman. After all, he has burst out as one of the most valuable players in the sport over the past couple seasons, combining defensive virtuosity with marvelous offense.
Dating back to last year, his first full season in the majors, Chapman has slashed .267/.347/.506 (130 wRC+) with 51 home runs in 1,116 plate appearances. His 10.7 fWAR in that span ranks seventh among all position players, putting him just behind Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon – a pending free agent who could collect a payday in the $150MM range in the offseason.
Considering the disparate points they’re at in their careers, Chapman obviously doesn’t have the earning power of Rendon. Depending on the length of the deal, though, Chapman could come within shouting distance of nine figures. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd posited last October that a seven-year, $80MM commitment might not have been out of reach on an extension, and that was before Chapman’s second straight overwhelmingly successful season.
Semien, 29 next month, has joined Chapman in emerging as an integral Athletic in the past couple years. By FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric, Semien was a slightly below league-average offensive producer from 2013-18, but the former White Sox infielder has found another gear this season. He’s hitting .273/.359/.469 (122 wRC+) with 19 HRs through 551 trips to the plate. Between his improved offense and quality defense, Semien has accounted for a personal-best 4.6 fWAR thus far. He’ll absolutely earn a solid raise in arbitration during the winter, but perhaps the Athletics will lock him up before it comes to that. Having just switched representation last week, he told Slusser his goal is to stick with the A’s for the long haul.
“That’s always been a big want for our family,” Semien said. “We’re extremely happy living here year round — that’s what anyone would want. And this team is such an amazing group to be around. Everyone talks about how bad the stadium is but when you have a group of guys you enjoy being around, that doesn’t matter.”
Oakland previously tried to extend Semien at the beginning of the 2017 season, when he would’ve come much cheaper. But the club wasn’t willing to match the six-year, $25MM guarantee the White Sox awarded shortstop Tim Anderson around the same time, according to Slusser. No agreement materialized as a result, and that may not change going forward, as Slusser writes “it’s hard to imagine” the A’s giving Semien a contract worth that much more than Chavez’s. It seems a long-term accord for Chapman is the bigger priority for the team.