The Phillies tightened up their 2020 infield on Tuesday afternoon, coming to an agreement with shortstop Didi Gregorius on one-year contract worth $14 million, as reported by Joel Sherman. Gregorius, who will be 30 years old on Opening Day, struggled through his worst season as a Yankee in 2019, hitting .238/.276/.441 with 0.9 WAR in 82 games after returning from offseason Tommy John surgery. After injuring his arm against the Red Sox in the 2018 ALDS, Gregorius hit for power after rejoining the team, but his plate discipline and low batting average were enough for the Yankees to not risk making a qualifying offer.
While I think there was a reasonable argument for the Yankees extending a qualifying offer to Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu’s star season gave the Yankees more middle-infield flexibility with Gleyber Torres, and the team had bigger fish to fry in free agency. It’s good news for Didi, of course, as the loss of a draft pick could have seriously impacted his chances of getting a favorable one-year deal that would enable to him to re-establish his value for next offseason.
Nobody’s ever really had well-timed Tommy John surgery, but it was especially unfortunate for Gregorius, who was coming off his best season in 2018 and was a year away from free agency. ZiPS projected a .274/.324/.459, 22 HR, 3.0 WAR line for him entering 2019 before his injury. With a full normal offseason of rest, he likely has the most upside of any shortstop available to sign this winter.
The Phillies bid adieu to both Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez last week, leaving the infield depth chart rather thin. Gregorius at short lets the Phillies play some combination of Scott Kingery and Jean Segura at second and third base or, if they were to trade Segura, use Josh Harrison or Alec Bohm in larger roles. Bringing in Gregorius doesn’t necessarily slam the door on an Anthony Rendon signing, but his $14 million contract does bring the Phillies to within a few million of the first luxury tax threshold. Signing Rendon without saving money elsewhere would likely put the team in the $240 million range for 2020.
This is a good signing for the Phillies, drawing them a little closer to the Nationals and Braves, who I still think are the top two teams in the division. But there’s still a lot of winter left. Here’s what ZiPS sees for Gregorius in Philadelphia next year:
Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.
A little surprised by the size of this deal. Feels like Didi wants a shot at re-establishing his value and hit the free agent market again. As a Yanks fan I’m glad he found a good home and will have the opportunity to help a team in the playoff hunt.