Phillies

Phillies agree to deal with shortstop Didi Gregorius

Phillies agree to deal with shortstop Didi Gregorius

Updated: 9:10 p.m. 

SAN DIEGO — The Phillies got their pitcher last week.

Now they have their infielder.

The club on Tuesday reached agreement with free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius, according to sources. The deal is for one year and $14 million, according to sources. The New York Post initially reported the agreement.

The signing likely concludes the Phillies' heavy lifting for the offseason. They signed right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal last week.

The Phillies have not confirmed the signing or commented on it because it won’t become official until Gregorius passes a physical exam.

The Phils are still looking for some bullpen help and starting pitching depth, but those are expected to be low-profile additions.

Adding Gregorius puts the Phils within about $6 million of baseball’s $208 million luxury-tax threshold. Phillies ownership has not ruled out going over the threshold and paying a 20 percent penalty on overages, but the decision to do so might not come until the 2020 season unfolds and the team sees where it is in the standings. General manager Matt Klentak on Monday said he expects the team to contend. The Phils have not made the playoffs or had a winning season since 2011.

Gregorius’ addition means Jean Segura will come off shortstop in 2020. He will likely move to second base, where he has played before, though a move to third is not out of the question. Scott Kingery will likely fill the remaining spot with Adam Haseley getting a shot to win the job in center field. The Phils could wait until spring training to finalize defensive arrangements in the infield.

In Philadelphia, Gregorius will be reunited with Joe Girardi, his manager with the New York Yankees from 2015-2017. Girardi was hired by the Phillies in October.

According to sources, Gregorius chose the Phillies over the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants. His connection with Girardi was a big attraction.

Girardi does not hide his affection for Gregorius.

“He’s a treat to be around,” Girardi said last week. “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. I’m a big fan.”

The Phillies’ need for infield help became acute after the team cut ties with second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco last week.

Gregorius, who made $11.75 million with the Yankees last season, turns 30 in February. He 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. By signing a one-year deal, Gregorius can rebuild his value and go back on the free-agent market next season. The Phils can attempt to retain him with a qualifying offer and would receive draft-pick compensation if he leaves.

Last week, Girardi was asked what Gregorius would 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’s 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.”

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MLB rule changes 2020: Phillies most affected by the new 3-batter rule

MLB rule changes 2020: Phillies most affected by the new 3-batter rule

MLB's new three-batter rule for relievers should have a fairly significant impact on the way managers manage and pitching coaches handle their bullpens.

To review, the new rule is that a pitcher entering after the starting pitcher must face at least three batters or pitch to the end of the current inning. So, for example, if Adam Morgan comes in with two on and two outs in the sixth inning and gets the third out, he does not need to come back out for the seventh.

This rule will obviously most affect relief specialists. Let's use Jose Alvarez as an example. Last season, Alvarez was one of the few Phillies pitchers who didn't take a step back from the prior year. He had a 3.36 ERA in 67 appearances. In 14 of those appearances, Alvarez faced one or two batters. It's why he amassed just 59 innings in those 67 appearances.

As best as they could, the Phillies tried to avoid having Alvarez face right-handed hitters. But it still happened frequently because there are more righties than lefties and because other teams routinely try to gain the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting.

Lefties hit just .236 with a .277 on-base percentage and .382 slugging percentage vs. Alvarez in 2019. Righties hit .328/.385/.475. 

An actual example

To find an example of the type of appearance we'll no longer see, let's go back to last June 15, a 6-5 Phillies win in Atlanta. In that game, Alvarez came on with runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to face left-handed hitting Nick Markakis. He struck him out looking to end the inning.

This season, Joe Girardi and Bryan Price may be leery of bringing in Alvarez in that spot. The next two hitters were right-handed Austin Riley and switch-hitting Ozzie Albies, who was one of the best hitters in baseball last season against lefties (.389/.414/.685). The upside of ending the inning at Markakis may not be worth having to potentially use the lefty Alvarez against Riley and Albies. 

Risk vs. reward

Managers and pitching coaches will have to constantly weigh whether the platoon advantage against a specific player (Markakis in this case) is worth the subsequent disadvantage if the inning doesn't end. You're always going to want a lefty facing Freddie Freeman, but you may be able to get away with keeping your right-handed pitcher in to face Markakis in that instance above.

Recently signed Francisco Liriano could be better equipped to deal with this rule change. While he's been much better against lefties throughout his career, he's also had some success against righties because of the effectiveness of his changeup. His career splits: .218/.296/.305 from lefties and .249/.335/.399 from righties. That follows closely with how he performed against righties last season as well.

Morgan should be relatively unaffected — when he's been successful it has been against hitters from both sides, not just lefties.

Righties could feel it, too

The rule change doesn't end with southpaws, though. While the left vs. left matchup traditionally is harder on the hitter than right vs. right, some right-handed relievers will feel this too.

Vince Velasquez, for example, could play a key relief role for the Phillies. Throughout his career, Velasquez has allowed left-handed hitters a batting average 24 points higher than righties and an OPS 67 points higher. Maybe you want Velasquez coming in to face Marcell Ozuna, who is 3 for 20 lifetime off of him, but you're going to hesitate if Markakis (9 for 22 with a double and four walks) is lingering on deck.

How 'bout the hitters?

On the flip side, this could benefit a few Phillies hitters. We don't yet know how the Phils are going to construct their lineup, but you'd think that Bryce Harper will be followed by right-handed Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. Harper was so good against lefties last season (.283 BA, .949 OPS, 15 HR) that teams in 2020 may opt to just use a right-hander against those three hitters. Why bring in a lefty who may not retire Harper anyway just to be forced to use that lefty against Hoskins and Realmuto?

Faster pace of play

It's unclear exactly how managers will adapt to the new three-batter rule but it is clear that it will shorten games. Think about all the innings last season — particularly in September — when three or four different pitchers were used. That's about 10 minutes right there of just pitching changes, factoring in the time it takes a manager to walk to the mound and the time it takes the new reliever to get to the mound and complete his warmups.

This should also create more offense, too, since there will be fewer platoon-based matchups late in games. If MLB goes away from golf balls and goes back to actual baseballs that don't turn 50 percent of the league into 20-home-run hitters, that extra offense should be a positive as well.

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At the Yard podcast: 3-batter rule, DH dynamic, NL East predictions

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At the Yard podcast: 3-batter rule, DH dynamic, NL East predictions

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman discuss one big rule change, another on the horizon, and make their NL East predictions in the latest At the Yard podcast.

• How does the new 3-batter rule for relievers change their mentality?

• Which Phillies relievers does it affect the most?

• If the DH does come to the National League in the next two years, how would it help the Phillies?

• Both guys are still vehemently anti-DH.

• Fan Q&A.

• NL East win total predictions.

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