Didi Gregorius was given an unenviable task when the Yankees acquired him in December 2014. He was the man the team added to play shortstop in the wake of Derek Jeter’s retirement. While Jeter wasn’t at his best in those final years, he had been the face of the franchise for the past two decades. Replacing any sort of beloved figure is hard, but replacing Yankees Captain Derek Jeter was going to be quite the challenge.
Then he did it. Gregorius stepped in and gave the Yankees five good years, improving nearly every year. He put up three 20 home run seasons, and became a genuinely good bat in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup. That and his affable character, on display often in dugout moments and on his Twitter account, made him a fan favorite for many.
However last winter, upon the expiration of his contract, the Yankees let him walk. DJ LeMahieu had emerged as an MVP candidate in 2019. Gleyber Torres came up through the minors as a shortstop and was someone the Yankees could put at that position. Gregorius had a down 2019 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Those factors seemingly combined to make Gregorius expandable in the Yankees’ eyes. They seemingly made no real effort to bring him back as he left to sign with the Phillies.
Despite all that, his deal with Philadelphia was only for one year and he is now back on the market. One season on from letting him go, could the Yankees bring Didi back to the Bronx?
As mentioned, Gregorius had a bit of a dip in 2019. He missed a large of the season recovering and when he came back, he put up an 83 wRC+, the worst of his Yankee career.
Flash forward a year, and he looked a lot more like his normal self. Gregorius played every game for the Phillies and hit .284/.339/.488 with a 116 wRC+. Those numbers are about in line with his 2017-18 Yankees’ stats, when he was a borderline All-Star candidate. His 10 home runs in the shortened season put him on a pace for 25ish in a full one. Again, that’s about what he did when he was at his best. Sure, it was a small sample size of a season, but it seems as if Gregorius was close to his best. He’s now fully recovered from surgery and got something resembling a full spring training. That probably helped considering how he came into 2019.
Even with that, he’s probably in the same boat as a lot of names on the market this winter: the Yankees probably won’t consider him unless they fail to bring back DJ LeMahieu. If LeMahieu is back, it’s hard to find any room for him, especially considering that he’s not going to come for a small deal. (MLB Trade Rumors predicted that he would get three years/$39 million.)
If LeMahieu goes somewhere else, Gregorius is a pretty decent option, and the Yankees could go back to their 2018-19 defensive alignment of Torres at second and Gregroius at short. That’s maybe not the best defensively, but that’s proven to be a very good offensive middle infield combo.
If the Yankees balk at whatever LeMahieu asks for, it’s hard to see them then turnaround and give Gregorius a multi-year deal at a decent price. Even more so considering that he’ll turn 31 before the start of next season. Gregorius himself doesn’t think that it’ll happen. Never say never, but it seems unlikely.