New Phillies manager Joe Girardi did not hide his affection for Didi Gregorius when asked about the free-agent shortstop and potential future Phillie on Tuesday night.
“He’s a treat to be around,” said Girardi, who managed Gregorius with the New York Yankees from 2015-2017. “He brings a smile every day and works extremely hard. He’s a very talented player. I think there’s 30 teams that would love Didi’s services.”
The Phillies’ infield is in flux after the team cut ties with second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco on Monday. One way to revamp the unit would be to sign Gregorius to play shortstop and move Jean Segura to second or third. Versatile Scott Kingery would fill the remaining position.
“Having non-tendered Cesar and Maikel as we did, that really does open up a spot on the dirt for a new acquisition,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “We've been exploring that and we will continue to explore that.”
Girardi described himself as a “big fan” of Gregorius, who turns 30 in February.
And what could Gregorius bring to the Phillies?
“Left-handed bat, power, plays an outstanding shortstop,” Girardi said. “He can play second, as well. He’s a real character guy and he’s a real hard worker that is a really important clubhouse presence. I felt that he was important to the clubhouse in New York in what he brought every day. I’ve always been a big fan of Didi and what he’s been able to accomplish. You have to remember, I got him when he first came over and he was replacing a legend (Derek Jeter) and how difficult that was and to see the growth that he made was really pleasing to me.”
Gregorius hit .277 with a .791 OPS and averaged 24 homers and 81 RBIs with the Yankees from 2016-2018. He played only a half-season as he recovered from elbow surgery in 2019. He hit just .238 but had 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 324 at-bats. The Yankees do have interest in re-signing Gregorius, who was popular with teammates and fans, but at the right price. If the Yanks don’t re-sign Gregorius, they could use Gleyber Torres at shortstop or pursue a free agent who won’t cost as much as Gregorius, who made $11.75 million last year and is seeking a multi-year deal. Gregorius did not receive a $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Yankees so the Phils would not have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him.
The Phillies and Yankees have something in common in that they have both prioritized adding starting pitching this winter and need to budget toward that cause. All this raises the question of whether the Phillies will be able to add the multiples of quality starting pitching that they need if they spend significant dollars on a shortstop.
“I think there are a lot of different directions we can go,” Klentak said. “Obviously, that's a balancing act. Any resources we devote to the offensive side will take away the resources we have to spend on the pitching side. So we have to balance that as well as we can.”
Klentak said he has been in touch with “a lot of agents” who represent free agents and he’s spoken to “a bunch of teams” about trades. He would not say if he’s made any offers to big-league free agents, but it’s December and the winter meetings start next week so of course he has.
“It’s been a slow-moving market,” he said. “We'll continue to have that dialogue. I expect those conversations will continue through this week and likely into the winter meetings.”
Girardi has been in contact with several free agents.
“I have talked to some free agents as we have been in this process,” he said. “Pitching has been a focus for us.
“I feel good about what we’re doing. It’s not just the pitching that we’re trying to address. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. When you start to talk about spending money on free agents, it’s the combination of free agents that is important. If you’re able to get this one guy, it might change what you’re able to do with a couple other people and so on and so forth. It’s the combination.
“You have to remember, when you’re talking about free agents, it’s a two-way street. We could want everyone but sometimes for family reasons or different reasons players choose other spots. But this is a great landing spot. You have an ownership group that wants to win and a front office that wants to win. And you have a very passionate fan base that loves its Phillies.”
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