Dave Dombrowski made it clear Wednesday that Didi Gregorius is not guaranteed the Phillies' shortstop job in 2022 regardless of the $14.5 million he's still owed.
Anyone who watched him play shortstop this season understands why. Whether using the eye test or any advanced metric, Gregorius was among the worst defensive players in baseball in 2021. In fact, according to MLB's Statcast data, Gregorius was the worst in baseball at any position by five full runs. His "Outs Above Average" grade was -18. The next-worst defender was Nationals third baseman Carter Kieboom at -13.
He also didn't do nearly enough at the plate to offset the defensive limitations. Gregorius hit .209/.270/.370 in 408 plate appearances and went 17 for 107 (.159) with runners in scoring position. Aside from the problems with his glove, he was also one of the majors' least effective hitters.
On Thursday, after Dombrowski commented that he would have to earn the job next season, Gregorius sent this cryptic tweet.
Gregorius' Twitter feed is typically reserved for postgame emojis following a Phillies win, but this is certainly a different tone. He appears to be taking exception to the comments from his team's president of baseball operations.
Here was Dombrowski's quote on Gregorius:
"It very well could be him. But he knows, we've had a discussion with him, that he needs to be better. We're in a position where we also are going to be open minded to what's going to take place at shortstop next year. It could be internal. It could be him if he comes back.
"I think for me with Didi, early in the year, he was a little bit late coming in. It was not a good offensive year. He's always been an offensive shortstop. But the one thing from a defensive perspective that he's always done in his career is catch the routine play. He hasn't always had the greatest range. But he just didn't do that this year on a consistent basis.
"Now, he was hurt some. I know the arm bothered him some. He had some injury factors. Maybe it is him. And he will come in shape. We'll just see how he does at that point, but he's not guaranteed that he's been told that he's for sure the shortstop. It doesn't meant that he can't play other positions for us, too. And maybe we'll have a DH that'll be part of our club too next year."
Gregorius dealt with an elbow injury all season. He was diagnosed with pseudogout, an arthritic condition in his right elbow that affected his ability to swing. Gregorius intimated this summer that he thought getting vaccinated had something to do with the condition, which he'd never heard of or been diagnosed with previously. Many scoffed at those comments, which aren't backed by science.
The elbow was not the only reason he struggled in the field, however. Gregorius' range has become limited and, especially early in the season, he played deeper to make up for it. At times, that infield depth led to baserunners for the other team.
The Phillies signed Gregorius this past winter to a two-year contract worth $28 million. He had performed for them in the shortened 2020 season, playing all 60 games, hitting .284 with an .827 OPS and a team-leading 40 RBI. He hit .345 with runners in scoring position with a .397 on-base percentage -- 200 points higher than his mark this year.
Dombrowski came aboard last December and the Phillies ended up re-signing both of their key free agents: J.T. Realmuto and Gregorius. Of all the free-agent shortstops last winter, only Gregorius received a multi-year deal.
The top three free-agent shortstops at that time were Marcus Semien, Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons. The Phillies were also interested in the defensive-minded Simmons to captain their infield but he signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Twins 10 days before the Phillies brought back Gregorius.
Semien was the best position player signing by any team last offseason. He joined the Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million deal and proceeded to hit 39 doubles, 45 homers and drive in 102 runs with an .873 OPS. He's going to get a big payday this time around.
The Phillies do have an internal option to play shortstop in 2022 in Bryson Stott, their highest-ranked position player prospect. The Gregorius deal was designed to help the Phillies bridge the gap at shortstop until Stott is ready.
Does Dombrowski now look at that Gregorius contract as a mistake?
"I don't usually look at it like that," he said. "It was the price of doing business at that particular moment. We look for him to bounce back next year. We know he's a better player than he played this year. He had a tough year this year, but he's a better player than that."