While J.T. Realmuto may be the biggest name on the Philadelphia Phillies potentially hitting free agency, the team has another key player with an expiring contract — shortstop Didi Gregorius is also due to hit the market this offseason.
“He’s had a great season for us,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi told reporters about Gregorius via Zoom last week. “He’s been a huge bat in the middle of the lineup for us — home runs, RBIs and important home runs and important RBIs. I think he’s stabilized our defense, and he makes people better around him.”
The 30-year-old had one of the best seasons of his career in 2020 in Philadelphia, posting the second-best OPS of his career at .827. He also brought a presence in the clubhouse that helped the Phillies off the field.
“He brings a great energy every day and a smile on his face every day,” Girardi said. “So, I think he’s had a big impact on this team.”
The question now is whether or not Gregorius will be making his impact with the Phillies or another club going forward. He signed a one-year, $14 million deal to play in Philadelphia prior to this season, but can become a free agent this winter.
Gregorius likely took that one-year deal with the intention of producing a bounce-back season after dealing with an injury in 2019, and trying to get a larger, longer contract this offseason.
Now that he’s coming off a very solid season, there are a wide number of possibilities in regards to where the shortstop could play going forward. Gregorius gave his thoughts about the topic following the last game of the year.
“Wherever will give me a chance,” Gregorius said Sunday when asked where he could play and about his interest in playing for the Phillies again. “I love playing with these guys. It’s a great group of guys. I have fun and play the game the right way with these guys. So, we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
The Phillies will most likely give Gregorius a qualifying offer at the end of the season. And unless he believes teams will be extremely hesitant to spend this offseason, Gregorius will probably reject the qualifying offer and look for a multi-year deal.
With Marcus Semien having a down year, Gregorius seems to be the top shortstop in free agency, which means a handful of teams could be after him. That includes the Phillies as well.
Although the Phillies do have 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott in their system as a shortstop, the prospect could be moved to either second base or third base if Gregorius is brought back for the foreseeable future. The positional versatility of Scott Kingery and Jean Segura would help open up spots for both Stott and Gregorius when the prospect is major-league ready.
An argument against re-signing Gregorius is that the shortstop pool in next year’s class of free agents is much better, with star players like Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trevor Story potentially hitting the market. If the Phillies plan on going after one of those players, getting a different shortstop on a one-year deal for 2021 might be the play. Still, Gregorius would be a much cheaper option than some of next year’s free-agent shortstops, while being capable of putting up good production.
Gregorius was a valuable player for the Phillies this year, and one that could be a part of their core for the next few seasons. Bringing him back could definitely make sense for both performance and culture reasons.
Wherever the shortstop ends up, it appears that his teammates in Philadelphia enjoyed playing with him, and will be happy to see him get another contract.
Bryce Harper said Sunday, “I talked to him earlier after [Sunday’s game] and I said, ‘I’m very happy for you. I’m very proud of you to be able to — you bet on yourself on a one-year deal. You came into Philly and you did your job.’
“He’s going to have teams lining up to be able to sign him next year, and I can’t wait to see what we do or what another team does for him.”
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