Free agent Didi Gregorius has a big fan in Phillies manager Joe Girardi

Free agent Didi Gregorius has a big fan in Phillies manager Joe Girardi

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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The DH sucks but would undoubtedly help the Phillies

The DH sucks but would undoubtedly help the Phillies

The designated hitter coming to the National League is an inevitability. To some, it's a welcome inevitability. Personally, I hate it, but I acknowledge I'm probably outnumbered.

It's not about watching pitchers hit. That is the over-simplified one-line response from DH proponents. It is about many additional elements of strategy not having a DH adds. If you're a pitcher, it affects how you approach the 6-7-8-9 hitters. There is more thinking ahead. 

That goes for managers, too, who face the difficult of question of, "Do I pull Jacob deGrom with two outs and two on in the bottom of the sixth inning in a scoreless game for the extra offense?"

That doesn't happen in the AL. The Justin Verlanders of the world pitch until they're no longer effective. There is no difficult decision for the manager. 

There is also less need for a bench. AL teams sometimes run three-man benches. And plenty of AL bench players exist only as defensive replacements and/or pinch-runners.

But whatever. It's probably coming. Could be coming as early as 2021, according to Jim Bowden.

It would actually benefit the Phillies, though. The Phils face a potential logjam in the corner infield with Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, Scott Kingery and Jean Segura. Only one of them can play third base. And Hoskins or Bohm would be at first base. If the DH came to the NL in 2021, the Phils could just slot Bohm into that position.

They could also use Hoskins, who isn't exactly an above-average defensive first baseman, as the DH. And toward the end of Bryce Harper's 13-year contract, his days of effective right field defense could be over and that may be the ideal spot for him.

It will be an adjustment when the NL rules change, and there will be some hard feelings, but the baseball world will probaby get over it within a few years. MLB has already adopted the three-batter rule for relievers, altered active rosters to 26 and prevented teams from utilizing their entire 40-man roster in September. These changes, in conjunction, are pretty significant too.

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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