As next week’s MLB Winter Meetings approach, the Philadelphia Phillies continue to be connected to two of the most notable free agents.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported Monday evening that the Phillies are “maintaining contact” with the agents of both third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Didi Gregorius, both of whom they have previously been connected to.
The Phillies got a front-row view of the bounce-back season that Donaldson, the 2015 American League MVP, had in 2019. As a member of the Atlanta Braves, Donaldson slashed .259/.379/.521 with 37 home runs, 94 RBIs and a 4.9 fWAR. Donaldson hit six home runs against the Phillies, as he helped the Braves to win their second consecutive National League East title.
Additionally, Donaldson was a Gold Glove Award finalist at third base after posting 15 defensive runs saved, his highest total since 2014, when he was a member of the Oakland Athletics.
Donaldson, who will turn 34 next weekend, was initially projected to get a three-year/$75 million deal by MLB Trade Rumors. It’s unclear if the four-year/$64 million free-agent deal that Mike Moustakas signed with the Cincinnati Reds Monday – a deal much larger than anyone anticipated – will increase Donaldson’s asking price.
Since the Braves issued a qualifying offer to Donaldson, the Phillies would have to relinquish their second-highest draft pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and give up $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money in addition to whatever they would pay Donaldson in a deal, if they were to sign him.
Meanwhile, Gregorius wasn’t issued a qualifying offer. The 29-year-old is coming off of a down season after returning from Tommy John surgery, but between 2015 and 2018, FanGraphs says that he was the seventh-best shortstop in baseball. There’s ample reason to think that he could bounce-back in 2020.
At the outset of free agency, MLB Trade Rumors projected that Gregorius would land a three-year/$42 million deal. If Gregorius bounces back to the form he showed between 2015 and 2018, that would feel like a heist for the Phillies, or any other team. That makes you wonder if it wouldn’t be a better strategy for him to take a one-year, prove-it deal like Donaldson did last offseason. At the very least, it would seem to make sense for Gregorius’ representatives to insist on an opt-out after the first year of a multi-year deal.
If the Phillies signed either, it would obviously have a domino effect on the rest of their infield. Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco – the team’s Opening Day starters at second and third base respectively in 2019 – were both non-tendered Monday. Jean Segura and Scott Kingery, both of whom can play multiple positions, remain under contract. Rhys Hoskins appears to be entrenched at first base as long as he’s on the team. Top overall prospect Alec Bohm, a natural third baseman, is expected to debut at some point in 2020, though there are questions about his viability at the hot corner.
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