San Francisco Giants

Bay Area native Semien, acquired in Samardzija trade, eager to play for A’s

Chicago White Sox infielder, Marcus Semien, gets ready to bat during an exhibition game against the Birmingham Barons on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Birmingham, Ala.
Chicago White Sox infielder, Marcus Semien, gets ready to bat during an exhibition game against the Birmingham Barons on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Birmingham, Ala. AP

SAN DIEGO -- Marcus Semien was at home in the Bay Area on Tuesday when he found out he likely won’t be playing his home games halfway across the country anymore.

Semien, a Bay Area native who attended Cal, was the key player acquired by the A’s on Tuesday in the six-player trade that sent All-Star pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Chicago White Sox.

The A’s went into this offseason looking for a shortstop to replace free agent Jed Lowrie -- specifically a young shortstop who would be under team control for multiple years. In Semien, they acquired a player whom general manager Billy Beane said the A’s actually "targeted earlier," attempting unsuccessfully to acquire him in the middle of last season.

"He’s going to get the opportunity to play every day," as the A’s regular shortstop, Beane said.

It would be a largely new role for Semien, who played most of his 85 career major-league games with the White Sox at third base and was not a regular. Beane said the A’s believe that lack of consistent playing time along with Semien’s defensive versatility (he can play several infield positions and some outfield) have contributed to the "perception that he’s not an everyday guy."

Now, Semien can seize the A’s starting job at shortstop, where he played primarily in the minors and which he said is his natural position. Beane said that Semien has "a chance to be a guy who plays shortstop and hits 20-plus homers. That’s pretty unique."

As valuable for Semien is the chance to come home. Semien attended St. Mary’s High School in Berkeley before going to Cal, and said he was getting swamped with calls and texts from friends Tuesday about joining the A’s. Semien said he grew up more a Giants fan but often went to A’s games, riding BART to the Coliseum.

"It means a lot," Semien said. "It really means a lot for my family, because a lot of my family members haven’t been able to see me play in person. That’s why my goal is to make this team, so my family has the opportunity to see me play at a ballpark I grew up going to as a kid."

Semien said the 2013 season was his first playing third base in pro ball. Before that, he’d played solely middle infield, so he feels comfortable there. He said he hadn’t talked much with Beane or manager Bob Melvin -- a fellow Cal alum -- yet about the opportunity at shortstop, but that, "Whatever opportunity comes forth, I want to do my best to grab that opportunity."

* Beane also Tuesday evening offered some insight on the three other players acquired in the Samardzija trade.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt: "One of the concerns during the (2014) season was the depth that we were starting to lose, not only young players in general, but particularly the starting staff. He finished the year in the (White Sox) rotation, held his own for a kid who just came up, adds to the depth on the roster of young starting pitchers who will be here for a few years."

Infielder Rangel Ravelo: "He’s a young guy, good hitter, we think his power’s going to continue to develop. He had a good year for a young player at the Double-A level, and at minimum (he’ll be) starting the (2015 season) at Triple-A." Beane added the A’s have discusses having Ravelo, who played first base last season, also work at third base.

Catcher Josh Phegley: "Catching depth was one of the things that really came into play last year during the season … Derek (Norris) had to take the burden of those injuries, so we needed depth." Beane said "it’s possible" Phegley could help the A’s in 2015, where they currently have Norris, John Jaso and Stephen Vogt returning at catcher.

* Beane said the A’s, who have now dealt three All-Stars in the last two weeks, still may not be done shuffling their roster. But he indicated it’s likely the trend of moving really big names will wane. More likely, he said, the A’s are now looking to add pieces through free agency or lower-profile trades.

Likely no area of the team is completely settled, but Beane did say he likes the makeup of the A’s bullpen right now, even with free agent Luke Gregerson probably not returning. Beane also said the A’s currently consider Eric Sogard their second baseman for 2015, with Nick Punto another option and Tyler Ladendorf a prospect.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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