Didi Gregorius’s injury opens up a legitimate hole in the Yankees’ infield going in to 2019. Obviously, the team might sign Manny Machado to fill it. Landing Machado is still no guarantee, but even if they do sign him, there’s still the question of the backup infielder. Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, or Hanser Alberto are already on the roster and could take that spot, but given their respective MLB track records, none of them inspire much confidence. One player that could serve as a both a Didi Gregorius replacement and a backup infielder is Freddy Galvis.
The Yankees have reportedly shown interest in Galvis already this offseason, likely because of his superlative glove work over the past few years. He’s been a Gold Glove finalist a number of times in his career, though he hasn’t ever quite managed to win one. That hasn’t stopped him from earning high praise from his teammates for his skills. Padres reliever, Craig Stammen called Galvis, “the best shortstop I’ve ever had play behind me.”
Quantitatively speaking, he’s one of the best shortstops in the game today. Since 2016, Galvis accumulated the 5th-most defensive value at the position, per FanGraphs. Galvis was the best shortstop in the league when it came to making what Inside Edge qualifies as routine plays, converting a league-leading 98.8% of them for the last three seasons. For what it’s worth, Galvis out-performed Didi Gregorius in every category of play, from routine plays to plays that have less than a 10-percent chance of being converted.
Offensively, Galvis has some big holes in his game, but he could still be serviceable as a part-timer. His 2018 slash line of .248/.299/.380 makes him one of the league’s worst hitters. Out of 38 qualifying shortstops, Galvis ranks 31st in wRC+ since 2016. He does have 45 homers during that span of time, which ties him for 12th place in that same pool of players.
Of course, Galvis put up some of those numbers in San Diego, home of one of the least hitter-friendly stadiums in MLB, Petco Park. Hitting in Yankee Stadium and other hitter-friendly venues in the AL East isn’t going to turn him into Francisco Lindor, but the switch-hitting Galvis would hopefully see at least a slight boost in the move.
Galvis made $6.8 million last season, which was in-line with similar all-glove, no-bat shortstops Jose Iglesias and Adeiny Hechevarria. It wouldn’t surprise me if Galvis doesn’t quite get back to that figure in his next contract. Neil Walker’s one-year, $4 million contract from last offseason seems like a decent starting point for Galvis this year.
By no means is Galvs the ideal Didi Gregorius replacement. His overall offensive numbers just aren’t going to be as good as Didi’s, and they probably won’t even reach league average. With that being said, Galvis does have value. He’s is undoubtedly one of the league’s best defensively, and he’s shown to be a very durable player, having played in all 162 games in each of the past two seasons. It would be disappointing if the Yankees forsook Machado for a cheap, glove-first option, but they won’t be sunk if they end up handing the keys at shortstop to Galvis while Gregorius heals.