2. Marcus Semien
Ah, and now we get to my favorite section of this list: the luxury tax segment!
The New York Yankees needed infield help entering 2021. Shortstop was far from a sure thing, and the Bombers were banking on Gleyber Torres taking a leap forward at the position he was promoted to handle, yet was clearly ill-suited to run with. DJ LeMahieu was floating in the free agent waters, seemingly begging Toronto for six guaranteed years. Luke Voit was recovering from foot stuff. Everything was sort of up in the air.
At the time, letting LeMahieu walk North of the Border felt like a fate worse than death. After all, he was a two-years-running Team MVP who much of the fan base wanted to present with a blank check. Now? Man, imagine what a different place these two franchises would be in if the Yanks hadn’t given DJ $15 million annually, and instead had committed only a single year to Marcus Semien.
No, New York couldn’t have signed both men and stayed under the tax, but … take LeMahieu’s salary off the books, as well as Corey Kluber’s $11 million (!), and you have an easy window to give Semien the $18 million that Toronto presented him with as a last-ditch attempt to fill an infield hole. How’s he done? Oh, just 38 homers, 6.4 WAR, sterling defense, a 137 OPS+, and flexibility to fill multiple positions.
Presenting him with a three-year offer and jettisoning Torres might be a smarter move for the Yanks this offseason than locking down short for two-thirds of a decade with Trevor Story or Carlos Correa. Unfortunately, they didn’t make the maneuver prior to 2021.