The Texas Rangers have reportedly struck first in baseball's hot free agent shortstop market, agreeing to a seven-year, $175 million deal with Marcus Semien, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.
Semien comes off the board ahead of fellow sought-after shortstops Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Javier Baez. He also will apparently sign before the sport's collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight on Dec. 2, which is likely to spur a lockout and send the offseason into a freeze.
The 31-year-old Semien is the oldest top-tier option in a monster shortstop free agent class. He took a one-year pillow contract with the Toronto Blue Jays for 2021 to prove that a down 2020 was a mirage. He won that bet on himself in a big way. During what turned out to be a one-year stay in Toronto, Semien batted .265 with a jaw-dropping 45 homers while mostly manning second base in deference to Bo Bichette.
For the second time in three years, Semien finished third in AL MVP voting. In part because of his dedication to playing every day, Semien has accumulated more WAR, by FanGraph's calculation, than any other hitter in baseball since 2019.
In joining the Rangers, he becomes the featured face of a franchise attempting to lift itself out of a rebuild. Texas went 60-102 in 2021, trading away Joey Gallo and others in an effort to hasten a return to contention. Passan reports that luring Semien doesn't spell the end of the Rangers' big offseason plans — and that they could still pursue Story to pair with him.
After a successful stint at second base in Toronto (which clearly didn't hamper his market value), Semien is willing to continue playing second base if the Rangers haul in another big free agent fish to play short, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
The $175 million deal gives Semien one of the largest shortstop deals in the majors, currently behind only the early career extensions signed over the past year by Francisco Lindor, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wander Franco. It also figures to set a high bar that other free agents will clear this offseason.
The $25 million average annual value Semien will reel in matches the deal his former teammate George Springer signed with the Blue Jays, also after crossing the age-30 threshold that increasingly worries teams. Twenty-somethings like Correa, Seager and perhaps Story figure to make the case they deserve even more per year with more of their primes remaining.
The Rangers, of course, are no strangers to massive deals for shortstops. In December 2000, they inked Alex Rodriguez to a record-smashing 10-year, $252 million contract.