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Blue Jays sign Marcus Semien, A’s whiff on obvious opportunity

Oakland couldn’t match a ONE-YEAR CONTRACT?

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s longtime shortstop and hometown star is officially gone.

Free agent Marcus Semien signed with the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, reports insider Jon Heyman. It’s a one-year, $18 million contract, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Semien is expected to play primarily second base for the Jays, adds Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

While Semien’s departure this winter was always an inevitability, the wonky offseason market and a surprising lack of demand for his services made a return to Oakland seem tantalizingly possible. Indeed, he did end up settling for a one-year deal, but not back home in the Bay.

In Toronto, the 30-year-old Semien joins a potential heavyweight team on the rise. The rest of the infield is full of young studs like Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio, and they recently added a premium outfielder in George Springer to go with a couple other young stars flanking him on the corners. The pitching staff features a Cy-caliber ace in Hyun-jin Ryu, and in the bullpen Kirby Yates is looking for a bounce-back in the closer role.

With three weeks to go before spring training, it’s still not clear who will play the middle infield in Oakland sans Semien, either at SS or at 2B. Chad Pinder, Vimael Machin, Tony Kemp, and Sheldon Neuse are among the top in-house options if no new faces are added to the mix. To rub salt in the wound for A’s fans, last year’s popular second baseman, Tommy La Stella, is signing with the San Francisco Giants.

Hot takes

This is downright embarrassing.

For all their cheapness over the decades, one thing the A’s have always been down for during the Beane Era is a short contract to rent a star. They’ll even offer higher average salaries just to make the duration shorter, which is specifically how they got Yoenis Cespedes.

It’s actually quite common for Oakland to sign or acquire a well-known name on a pricey one-year deal, often in some kind of bounce-back capacity. It’s a great way to gamble on upside, and if it busts then you’re not on the hook for anything beyond that summer. It’s why there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract.

And now, an unheard of opportunity just fell into their laps. Their All-Star caliber starting shortstop, a local product who never misses a game, plays well on both sides of the ball, is beloved in the community, and popular among his teammates, who finished third for MVP in 2019, and is still within his prime at age 30? He was supposed to be priced far beyond their means. Instead, as a total fluke, he was available on a one-year deal, due to a perfect storm of factors including his own small-sample off-year last summer.

This should have been a no-brainer. Of course you bring him back for one more year, right at the peak of the team’s contention window, at a prime up-the-middle position where the organization has zero other seriously viable answers for 2021. It’s even a few bucks cheaper than his qualifying offer would have cost in November. How do you blow this? It was an absolute gift from the universe.

But nah, say John Fisher’s A’s, whose payroll currently stands below last year’s Opening Day figure by slightly more than what Semien just signed for. Instead, right at their most crucial moment in terms of on-field competitiveness, they will pinch pennies after one tough financial year — that is, a tough financial year for the team, not for Fisher, whose net worth has grown substantially since April according to Forbes.

We’re used to seeing stars leave Oakland for huge sums of long-term money elsewhere, and that’s fine and even justifiable, but this situation is entirely different. Marcus Semien signed a one-year deal, and it wasn’t with the supposedly contending 2021 A’s. Shameful.