Oakland Athletics: Marcus Semien set to earn largest contract in team history

Oakland Athletics (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien is well on his way to earning the largest contract in team history following a truly remarkable 2019 campaign.

The Oakland Athletics aren’t exactly a team known for making big-name free-agent signings or handing out blank checks to homegrown talent. But if they want to keep Marcus Semien around, they’re going to have to make some history.

The fact that we’re even discussing Semien in this regard is already quite astounding given where he was a year go.

Semien had steadily improved over his four years with the A’s and had managed to transform from a below-average defender to one of the very best at his position. But at the plate, he still remained unimpressive.

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Going into 2019, Semien held a career-high OPS+ of just 99 (barely below the average) and had never batted over .260 in a season. On top of that, he still struck out at a pretty high clip, especially when compared to his walk rate.

But out of seemingly nowhere, Semien emerged as one of the very best hitters in the MLB in 2019 and finished third behind Mike Trout and Alex Bregman in the American League MVP race.

The 29-year-old posted career-highs in batting average (.285), on-base percentage (.369), slugging percentage (.522), OPS+ (138), walks (87), doubles (43), home runs (33), total bases (343), and WAR (8.1).

Semien has become a true superstar in Oakland in the matter of one season, but he certainly isn’t getting paid like one. The former Chicago White Sox shortstop is set to make a little over $13 million through arbitration in 2020.

But his real payday will come the following offseason. That is unless the A’s lock him up beforehand.

Semien has already expressed his desire to remain in Oakland long-term. After all, it was the A’s who stuck by him and remained patient over all these years. In many ways, he owes a lot of his success to the Athletics organization.

But how much of a hometown discount would he really take? And even if he does take a discount, what could the A’s realistically afford?

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Whatever the final dollar amount turns out to be, it does seem clear that the A’s are set to make history by handing out the largest contract ever to an Athletics player. The current record is held by Eric Chavez who signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the club back in 2004.

Expect Marcus Semien to shatter that record if the A’s could keep him in Oakland.

For context sake, Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts signed a six-year, $132 million extension with the team back in April. Comparing the two presents an interesting dynamic.

Semien is coming off a much better season than Bogaerts was when he signed his extension (8.1 WAR as compared to a 3.8 WAR). However, Bogaerts had a much more proven track record of success while Semien has only had the one incredible season.

On top of that, Bogaerts was only 26-years-old when he signed the extension while Semien is already 29. For that reason, it’s unlikely he demands as much money as his American League adversary.

CBS Sports projected that a fair offer for Semien would be somewhere in the range of five years, $76 million with a chance to max out at six years, $92.5 million.

That seems to be a fair estimate of Semien’s value and also one that the A’s — if they’re serious about winning — should be comfortable agreeing to.

With a core of Semien, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson, the A’s still have a window of opportunity to make a run at a World Series title. And locking up Semien long-term is essential for a franchise searching for its first World Series appearance since 1990.

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It will be pricey and it will break records, but extending Marcus Semien is a necessity for the Oakland Athletics in the near future.