In the last 24 hours since the Phillies signed Didi Gregorius, I was juggling a day-job, learning the sides for an audition in 12 hours including sleep, a meeting, and an avalanche of holiday-related to-dos, so I apologize in advance for this photo review being less than meticulously crafted. But I don’t think I have any particularly scorching hot takes here. Look at my pleasant, unscorched smile. It’s like a latte that has slightly cooled.
I Am Pleased
This move was not a surprise, which could be part of the lukewarm latte nature of this take. But I am pleased. The Phillies needed an infielder, and they got one! Hooray! And I am not unhappy that it is Didi Gregorius, or that it’s a one-year deal, in case he doesn’t bounce back from Tommy John surgery. Gregorius has made himself into a solid offensive contributor through analytical tweaks, which I always admire, and I am glad to have his lefty bat (sorely needed, and with solid power for a shortstop), and his fun personality on this team.
It’s reported that Gregorius chose the Phillies over other teams in part because of his connection to Joe Girardi, for which I am grateful. It’s mildly interesting, that Didi’s best season, 2018, in which he posted a 122 wRC+, was after Girardi departed, but he arguably broke out in 2016-17, when pulling the ball more started clicking for an increase in power. Citizens Bank Park should be, as it is for most, a good place for him to hit.
When he returned from TJ last season, he struggled, but a decrease in walk rate (4.9% vs 8.4% in 2018) and increase in chase rate (41.1% vs. 36.2% in 2018) suggests he was pressing at the plate. But his return, itself, was pressed; the conventional wisdom is that it takes over a year for pitchers to return from TJ and position players take half that time, but with seven months of recovery, it’s possible it was just too soon. Hopefully, another full offseason of rest will help him–and a proper spring training. And he can cash in with a multi-year deal next year, like Josh Donaldson looks to do.
Ladies Love Smartly Executed Defensive Plays, Tho
But now we get to the important part of this review, where I opine as the President of the Ladies Love Smartly Executed Defensive Plays lobby. My opinion of Gregorius was always that he was a good defensive shortstop. Maybe that’s partly because he was taking over for Jeter, not a whiz with the glove despite what only-Jeter-for-the-Hall-of-fame balloters think.
So I was very surprised to see that Didi’s career DRS numbers are negative (-11); however, his career UZR is as positive in the opposite direction (12.4). Both of these stats are measured in runs, so it’s an interesting discrepancy (though both stats agree his glove was a negative in 2016). As I understand it, DRS faults a player more for balls that two players could hypothetically get to, if it wasn’t fielded perfectly. So it’s possible Gregorius is getting some DRS blowback from Starlin Castro (career -24 DRS) or Gleyber Torres (-8 DRS and -12 UZR in two seasons at 2B).
The conventional wisdom at the moment seems to run that Gregorius will be an upgrade defensively over Segura, who grades out with slightly worse than average defense by both DRS and UZR (-1 and -1.9, respectively). I’m hoping that’s so, and that UZR tells a better story for Gregorius, but I’m aware that’s also because that number more accurately backs up the impression I had of his defense, so it could be a confirmation bias festival. A less compelling festival than the “revenue festival,” per Scott Boras.
The Phillies Infield Sudoku
But now, speaking of Segura, there’s a question of how the rest of the non-Hoskins part of the infield shakes out. For one, this has to take the Phillies out of the Rendon market, if they were ever really in it to begin with. And I doubt Donaldson comes to the team, either.
It seems to me that the most likely outcome is that Segura moves back to second, where he played with the Diamondbacks, and Kingery stays at third, at least until Bohm joins the majors. (Josh Harrison could also be a factor here, if he bounces back from a season lost due to hamstring injury, but I consider him a Triple-A lottery ticket that I’m very glad the Phillies have, more than a sure thing.) I’ve always been wishing for Scotty Jetpax to return to his natural position, and so was rooting for Kingery to go back to second base and a try-out of Segura at third. However, it’s interesting to note that Kingery’s best defensive position, according to the defensive metrics, is third base, with 7 DRS and 3.1 UZR in two seasons. So perhaps the likeliest outcome is also the one I would like!
And now, two words about pitching
Which is nice, on the day following the Yankees hauling in Gerrit Cole, a case of the likeliest outcome being the one that I like least. All I want for Christmas is a Phillies hot stove move that will not be tainted by a pitcher going to a team I hate. Unclear if I will be getting one, with “only” a few million left under the Phillies’ luxury tax threshold.
The Phillies still need another starting pitcher. And I really hope they will get one with either what they have left in their self-imposed “budget,” even if it’s a number five starter. I will end up being irked by this very nice Gregorius deal if it “prevents” them from doing that. Right now they’re banking on a full season of health from a) Zack Wheeler b) Jake Arrieta c) Zach Eflin AND d) Bryan Price unlocking Pivetta OR Velasquez being able to go more than twice through the order. Those are too many holes for one Spencer Howard to fill.
In the following year I vow:
1. NOT to say “Yes in-Didi” like John Sterling. Not once. Never.
2. Not to STOP singing “Gregorius!” to the tune of “Notorious B.I.G.” per my standing tradition.
- / 2 days ago
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