TORONTO – Marcus Semien looked like the guy in Toronto whose Blue Jays almost missed an AL wild-card race.
Between now and spring training, the All-Star slugger must decide if he wants to come back to Canada and try to make it happen.
AL Cy Young award-favourite Semin and left-hander Robbie Ray are the two biggest free agents for the Blue Jays team, whose 91 wins overtook Eastern rivals Boston and New York for a playoff spot.
Semien set a major league record with 45 home runs as a second baseman, and last season signed a one-year, $18 million deal to bet himself and switch positions and join the Jays. After this winter can expect many offers.
“I think my power numbers speak for themselves,” Semien said. “I’m 31 but I feel like I’m getting better every day. My body feels great.”
After Toronto’s season ended on a disappointing Sunday, All-Star shortstop Bo Bischet was asked about Semien’s impact on his development this year.
“Everything,” Bichette said, struggling to control her emotions. “He means a lot to me.”
Recognizing that family considerations would be a factor in his decision, Semien did not hesitate when asked if he would consider returning to the Blue Jays.
“Of course,” he said. “We had the best offense in the major leagues and, to my mind, the best start in the game. How come you wouldn’t want to be a part of it?”
Toronto leads the major leagues in home runs (.262) and slugging percentage (.466). His 846 total runs ranked third behind Tampa Bay (857) and Houston (863).
Acquired from Arizona on deadline in 2020, Ray returned to Toronto on a one-year, $8 million deal and leads 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA, leading the major leagues with 248 strikeouts.
“I was finally doing what I felt like I was capable of doing,” Ray said. “Everyone was always talking about ‘Will this ever come out?’ This year, the walk was less, the strikeouts were still up, everything was still good. It just kind of came together and it was really fun.”
Ray’s career season helped the Blue Jays record an ERA of 3.91, the fifth lowest in the AL, and lead the league with 14 shutouts.
The Blue Jays have walked out of their outfit over the past two winters to sign left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu and outfielder George Springer. This offseason, retaining one or two of their players could be Toronto’s most important move.
Here are some other things to look out for with the Blue Jays this offseason:
What’s next for VLAD?
After slimming down last winter, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. super-sized his aggressive production in 2021. Guerrero matched Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez for the major league lead in home runs with 48, and his 363 total was 12 more than Bas Semien. Major in Major.
“He showed everyone that he was willing to do whatever it takes to be the best in the world,” Bichette said of Guerrero. “I know he’s up for it again and I’m sure he wants to do even better next year.”
George is recovering
After the start of his season was delayed by oblique and quadriceps injuries, Springer had 22 home runs and 50 RBIs from 78 games, but missed more time in August due to a sprained left knee. Although he still had knee pain in September, Springer said he expected a full recovery from spring training.
In addition to Semien and Rey, left-hander Steven Matz is also a free agent this winter. Matz took a 14–7 lead with a 3.82 ERA, setting a career high in the win. Toronto’s other free agents are outfielders Corey Dickerson and Jarrod Dyson, right-handers Joaquim Soria and two right-handed relievers who missed most or all of the season due to injuries, Kirby Yates and David Phelps.
no more travel
Toronto played home games in three different cities in 2021, but now with the easing of border restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a full season north of the border is expected in 2022. This is good news for the Blue Jays, who went on to lead 25-11. Returning to Toronto on July 30, at his Spring Training site in Dunedin, Florida, and at his Triple-A colleague’s home in Buffalo.
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