I know I haven’t exactly been shy in sharing my belief that the Cubs should be interested in signing free agent shortstop Marcus Semien, who could provide a really nice near-term boost as Nico Hoerner perfects his offensive approach in the minors before being handed the keys to second base long-term. At this point, I don’t expect that to happen. I suppose I’m still just trying to make a point about the Cubs lack of spending this winter, even on obvious, reasonable, warranted, short-term additions with substantial upside.
So, that is to say, in the context of the latest on Semien, the Cubs are irrelevant save for the divisional aspect:
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) January 26, 2021
Jeff Passan had previously listed 11 teams that could be interested in Semien this offseason – and that did include the Cubs, mind you – but neither the Twins nor the Brewers were among those parties. And while I don’t blame him for whiffing on Milwaukee, I do think Minnesota has emerged as an obvious destination for a shortstop this winter, and they probably have a financial edge over Milwaukee, who may just be hoping a great deal falls in their lap.
So while it’s fully my own speculation, I’d give the edge to the Twins at the moment, if those were the two primarily-interested teams.
Given the NL Central impact, though, let’s focus in on the Brewers, who’ve been just as quiet as any team in the division this offseason. Of course, the Brewers probably still have as good of a shot of winning the division as the Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals (especially if the Cubs get worse from here and everyone else stands pat). That goes double if the Brewers are the only team in the division to actually go out and land a player of Semien’s caliber, which is only partly a compliment to Semien, and partly a note on how the rest of the division is in deep decline mode so far this winter.
But, hey, he does have a lot to offer, especially to the Brewers. That’s why he’s my been my favorite target of the winter:
Semien, 30, absolutely *exploded* in 2019, with a 7.6 WAR season, featuring a 137 wRC+, and excellent defensive and base running metrics. That season, he slashed .285/.369/.522 with 33 homers, was a Gold Glove nominee at shortstop, and finished third in MVP voting.
Had he hit free agency after *that* performance (and before the pandemic/further away from the huge free agent shortstop class of next offseason), he probably would’ve landed himself a monster deal. Unfortunately for him, he followed that MVP-caliber campaign up with another season just below average offensively in 2020, for which he may have been given the benefit of the doubt had it not tracked so closely to his history at the plate.
Semien is likely seeking a short-term deal this winter, either one-year to reestablish his value, or a two-year deal to do the same while also leap-frogging next year’s MONSTER free agent shortstop class. Either way, the commitment in years and dollars is not expected to be massive – especially considering the potential upside he offers.
Speaking of that upside, it could be a huge boost to the Brewers, specifically, who currently have Orlando Arcia pencilled in for shortstop with just a projected 1.1 WAR according to ZiPS. Meanwhile, ZiPS has Semien as a 3.9 WAR player in 2021, which could mean a three-win bump for the Brewers in a single signing. Throw in the benefit of Arcia’s move to the bench/depth and you can see how this would be something of a no-brainer upgrade for them (and remember, Semien was worth 7.6 WAR during the last full MLB season).
Even if Semien merely lived up to his conservative ZiPS projections, he’d instantly become the second most valuable player on the team behind Christin Yelich (including the pitchers).
So while I’ll have to believe it when I see it when it comes to any NL Central addition this offseason, Semien should be a short-term, low cost, positional fit, and huge upgrade for the Milwaukee Brewers, who may just be the first NL Central team to recognize how easily this division can be attained with just a tiny bit of money.