Didi Gregorius arrived in New York the offseason after Derek Jeter retired with the task of being the man to replace him. After five seasons, we can come to the conclusion that he did as good a job as you could reasonably ask for.
His defense always graded out pretty well, but over the course of his time with the Yankees, his bat slowly developed to the point where he was a borderline All-Star. In his first season in pinstripes, he had a 89 wRC+ while hitting nine home runs in 155 games. In 2018, he tripled that home-run total in fewer games while putting up a 122 wRC+. Sure, the juiced ball and all that, but the improvements he made from classic, light-hitting shortstop to genuine middle-of-the-order bat were nothing short of impressive.
Now the years of team control and arbitration have come to an end, and the Yankees have a decision to make. Should they bring back Gregorius?
To start with the negatives, the big one going against him is that the Yankees have an in-house option who could take over the shortstop position. While Gleyber Torres has spent most of his time in the majors at second base, he came up through the minors at shortstop and has filled in for Gregorius during IL stints or off-days. The Yankees could very easily move him there, and not leave a gap anywhere else thanks to DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, and, maybe in time, Miguel Andujar.
Those IL stints, and the injuries associated with him, could be another thing going against him. Gregorius played 155 and 153 games in his first two seasons with the Yankees, but had missed chunks of the season every year since. The worst came this past season when he lost the first couple months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery. On the other hand, he’s never been one to have regular trips to the IL. In all three instances, he’s either started the year on the IL, or gone on, recovered and come back without major issues. Saying he’s “injury prone” is definitely unfair, but they have also affected him at points.
The surgery also possibly caused him to put up his worst season in a couple years in 2019. Gregorius will be going into free agency on a low, having put up just a 84 wRC+ this past season. His power was still there though as he hit 16 home runs in just 82 games. However, his on-base percentage took a pretty sizable dip. His walk rate had been trending up throughout his Yankee career, but that also dropped and had a pretty sizable effect on his overall seasons numbers. Considering that a lot of his other numbers weren’t far off pace from previous seasons, the fact that he stopped taking walks really hurt his 2019.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Gregorius would get a three-year, $42 million dollar deal. That brings us on to the positives: if the Yankees got him on a deal around that length, they would be getting a quality player on a deal that would take him only to his age-32 season.
It also wouldn’t be especially crazy for him to rebound somewhat back to his 2017-18 performance. If he gets further away from injury with a chance to actually go through a full spring training, he could easily put up better numbers in 2020. Between his defense and the power he provides from the shortstop position, if he gets back on track, he would be more than worth any deal in the area speculated.
However, if the Yankees wouldn’t give him the qualifying offer, it’s hard to imagine them then going and giving him a larger deal, which he could very easily get. If he does leave, it will be a sad day as Gregorius is a favorite for many fans (including the author) and has provided some extremely memorable moments. At this point, though, it does seem more likely than not that he will be playing in another uniform next season.