Marcus Semien, the two-time All Star infielder with a power bat and slick glove in his prime is looking at free agency. The $18 million man for eight years just signed an extension before last year’s deadline, but Texas may not be so willing to pay that much again when he hits the market after next season. He’ll be 31 by then too…
Marcus Semien has just been traded to the Texas Rangers, but what will happen to his fantasy value in the new team?
Marcus Semien, the first of the big-name free agents shortstops — or, in this instance, second baseman, which was his main position in 2021 — has allegedly agreed to sign with the Texas Rangers for a seven-year, $175 million deal.
In terms of fantasy value, Semien was the best of the bunch, placing fourth among shortstop eligibles and third among second basemen in 2021. He’s also the most senior, having turned 31 in September, so it’s interesting to see a rebuilding club like the Rangers turn to him. It might be one of the few situations where his prospects of duplicating last season’s success have been severely harmed.
To be honest, it’s tough to assess the effect of Semien’s presence in Texas without knowing the Rangers’ whole roster for 2022. On Sunday, the club agreed to acquire outfielder Kole Calhoun and starting pitcher Jon Gray for a reported $61.2 million, and there are rumors that the team is still on the market for another big-name shortstop.
With the right mix of additions, the Rangers’ rebuild could accelerate, and the departure from the Toronto Blue Jays’ third-in-runs (5.22 per game) offense to join the Rangers’ third-worst-in-runs (3.86) lineup, not to mention the move from Rogers Centre to Globe Life Field, won’t seem quite so devastating.
But here’s how things stand right now: Semien was predominantly a 1-2 hitter on a club that scored a lot of runs last season, and despite a mediocre.334 on-base percentage, he was able to score the fifth-most runs (115) in the majors, while also driving in 84 of the team’s 102 runs.
He’ll most likely bat third or fourth for a Rangers club that had the poorest on-base percentage (.294) and third-worst slugging percentage (.375), thus the effect on his runs/RBIs potential should be evident.
Because Nathaniel Lowe is the only other returning member of the squad with a.325 on-base percentage, this club would have to give up at least one more top-of-the-lineup position to a stronger on-base and/or run-producing hitter to help Semien’s counting stats.
Furthermore, a lesser offense from 1-9 means fewer times the club shifts over the lineup, which means fewer plate appearances for Semien over the course of 162 games, and hence a drop in his counting stats.
Another point of contention is Globe Life Field’s significantly more pitcher-friendly tilt than its predecessor across the street. In 2021, the Bill James Handbook ranked it as a better home run venue than the Rogers Centre (94 to 93, where 100 is neutral and 94 means the park deflated home runs by 6%), but I prefer at least a three-year average, where Globe Life had a 92 factor to the Rogers Centre’s 111. With just a season and a smattering of statistics, it’s tough to pin down all of Globe Life Field’s affects, but it seems evident that it’s a more neutral offensive setting, which is a step back for Semien.
All of these might result in Semien losing just a minor bit of productivity. Let’s say 40 plate appearances, 3-5 home runs, and 10-12 runs/RBIs each. Given how everything fell into place for him in 2021 and how a repetition was already going to be difficult, it’s now much more probable that he’ll see a significant dip in his Player Rater ranking.
Maybe that makes him a borderline top-50 overall finisher, but I’m at least one round (and perhaps two) less interested in paying the premium to acquire him than I was at the start of the hot stove season.
In terms of Semien’s long-term prospects in Texas, the year 2023 (or even 2024) might be the sweet spot of his contract. By that time, the club may have made a better push back into contention, he’ll have a stronger “settled in” case if a rebound argument is required, and he’ll still be near to his peak to perform like he did in 2021. If you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, save that for until you see a midseason purchasing chance, particularly if he disappoints in his first few days with the Rangers.