Marcus Semien’s market has extended beyond just shortstop-needy teams, as FanSided’s Robert Murray reports that “a few” clubs have inquired about Semien as a second baseman or third baseman. Semien has played exclusively at shortstop over the last six seasons, but he did see some action at both second (29 games) and third (50 games) earlier in his career when he was a member of the White Sox.
It isn’t clear if this was something of an exploratory ask on the part of the interested teams, as there is a notable difference between having interest in Semien primarily as a shortstop but with the flexibility of moving him to other infield spots in a pinch (or in late-game scenarios), and specifically looking at Semien as an everyday option at another infield position. There are lots of more experienced second and third basemen available in free agency, though exploring Semien at another spot might be a more creative way for a team to address either position.
A position switch for Semien seemed like much more of a reality a few seasons ago, when he was struggling with his defense after becoming the Athletics’ full-time shortstop. However, some diligent work on Semien’s part led to a massive improvement, as he posted +26 Defensive Runs Saved and a +5.6 UZR/150 over 2858 2/3 innings at shortstop over the 2018-19 seasons. The UZR/150 metric still liked his work (+4.8) over 451 1/3 innings at short in 2020, but his DRS numbers fell off dramatically, with a -5 mark last season. (Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric has never been too impressed with Semien’s glovework, as he has alternated between a -3 and -4 OAA in each of the last four seasons.)
It could be that 2020 was the start of a defensive decline, though as with every statistic from the past season, it represents a small sample size. The same could be said about Semien’s performance at the plate, as he hit .223/.305/.374 over 236 regular season plate appearances, but he started to heat up in mid-September and then mashed his way to a 1.151 OPS over 31 PA during the playoffs.
All these factors and Semien’s lack of true elite performance outside of the 2019 season make him somewhat of a hard free agent to properly evaluate going forward, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored. It could be that these defensive inquiries are reflective of a fairly wide difference of opinion on Semien’s value, depending on which team you ask. Whereas some clubs may see Semien as a second baseman or third baseman, others (according to Semien’s agent Joel Wolfe) think highly enough of Semien’s defensive ability that they’re willing to move their current shortstop to another position in order to make room for Semien at his customary place at short.
Murray writes that Semien “works out at [second and third base] during the season and could play either position should the right opportunity present itself.” One would imagine Semien would want to remain at shortstop, all things being equal, though the complicated nature of the overall shortstop market could also impact his choices. Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, and Korean star Ha-Seong Kim are also free agents, while star names like Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Jean Segura, and Carlos Correa are all varying degrees of available in trade talks. Marketing himself as not only a shortstop, but a potential multi-position threat who can be moved around the infield could be quite beneficial to Semien in making him stand out from the crowd.