How Marcus Semien became the Blue Jays’ all-star second baseman without setting foot in Toronto
While Toronto Blue Jays fans clicked second baseman Marcus Semien’s name to make him the American League’s starting second baseman for this year’s All-Star Game, they did so without any doubtless never having seen him play in person.
That is, unless they’ve been to Dunedin, Florida, or Buffalo, New York this season.
Semien is yet to set foot in Toronto after signing a one-year, $ 18 million deal with the Blue Jays in late January. COVID-19 protocols in Canada forced the team to start the year at their spring home in Florida and then move to their Triple-A stadium in Buffalo, where they played last season.
Semien remains hopeful he will see Toronto – and its fans – before likely returning to the free agent market this winter.
âThat would be great,â Semien recently told ESPN. âPlaying in Dunedin we didn’t get a lot of cheers. When we played Boston it was a road game.
“The bison can swing [like Toronto], too much. It is the largest Triple-A baseball stadium. My wife told me she got chills on opening night there. She was like ‘You’re cheered for once.’
“It’s home now.”
If the Jays return to Toronto this season, Blue Jays fans will see it as a smooth-field defenseman who has bounced back from a poor 2020 campaign for the Oakland Athletics. His OPS plunged 0.679 in the shortened season, and he has managed 20 homers in 79 games this year after hitting just seven in the shortened 60-game season.
He has an OPS + of 143, his best of his career, and it’s how that stat is set that best tells the story of Semien 2021, as the metric relies heavily on a player’s base stage. .
Semien never thought he would play for the Blue Jays in the first place. They already have a shortstop at Bo Bichette, and at the end of last season Semien went looking for a team that didn’t have a starter in that position. But his options were limited, mainly because the organizations claimed they were out of money.
âToronto was definitely one of the teams that seemed to spend, after COVID,â Semien said. âIt was the Mets and Toronto.
“I wanted to play shortstop so at first Toronto was not on my radar because I know Bo is playing short.”
A shortstop return would place Semien in one of the busiest free agent classes of all time with Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javy Baez and Corey Seager also set to enter agency this winter. Even though he now excels at second goal, Semien wants to come back with this group of stars.
âI definitely wanted another free agency shot after the 60-game season I’ve played,â said Semien. “A one-year contract was the best way to do it. Here we are today and I’m happy with my improvements on second base.”
The Blue Jays are also very happy. Semien sits in the 96th percentile of above-average strikeouts in his new position while providing leadership for Toronto’s young offensive core.
âEverything we heard about him was exceptionally positive and he far exceeded our expectations,â Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week. “He puts a smile on my face. Marcus is so good at baseball. He’s a calming and constant influence for us.”
As the talks got serious, Atkins recalls that Semien was interested in more than money or his position on the team.
âHe was very curious and very collaborative about it,â Atkins recalls. âOne of the things that got us the most excited was when he started talking about Bo and his confidence in this young team. It’s just about who he is and how he thinks. gambling.”
Semien sees the Blue Jays as a different type of contender than the teams he played for in Oakland.
âWe were built from the bullpen,â Semien said of the A’s. âWe had about four closures at the back in 2018. In 2019 we had Liam Hendriks. This team is more built in attackâ¦ there are some games we should win, but we’re still young. I know we âI’ll win them later in the season.â
The Blue Jays are counting on Semien’s leadership as one of the few positional players on the team who knows what a 162-game pennant race looks like. The team tasted it last season, but only in the 60-game 2020 format.
Even if Semien brings his team back to the playoffs, that won’t change the fact that he will likely move on in 2022. Pandemic free agency uncertainty will give way to uncertainty of a new CBA. Semien is on the board of the players’ union and will have a say in what free agency looks like for all players in the future.
For now, he’ll be focusing on his All-Star appearance, playing a position he hadn’t planned on, for a team he didn’t think he would belong to.
âWhen I think back to the offseason, I didn’t know what to expect,â Semien said. “I have no complaints. Toronto has been good to me.”
Even though the city’s new star was already there.