In the second of two moves that have been the Phillies contribution to a baseball week chock full of new transactions, Philadelphia was able to return shortstop Didi Gregorius to their lineup on a 2-year contract worth $28 million including deferred money.
Gregorius, who suited up for Philadelphia in 2020 and quickly became a fan favorite despite never playing in front of a hometown crowd, performed admirably in a bounce-back year last season. He slashed .284/.339/.488 while slugging 10 homers, posting weighted Runs Created+ of 117 and securing the 2nd best strikeout rate (11.8%) of any qualified shortstop in baseball. He performed particularly well at Citizens Bank Park; whose friendly confines likely correlate well with his high contact but not overly powerful swing. He hit .314 in Philly in 2020 with a .915 OPS and seven of his ten homers while hitting only .247 on the road with an OPS of .721.
More simply and perhaps most notably, Gregorius was healthy in 2020, having played in all sixty games of the shortened slate. This is particularly impactful since he missed the first half of 2019 while with the New York Yankees due to recovering from Tommy John surgery. Gregorius would return in June and play 82 games but put up the second worst offensive season of his career (wRC+ of 83) amid his free agent year.
It is curious then why Gregorius is still receiving the same Average Annual Value of $14 million on this contract as he did on his previous deal with the Phillies when he was coming off a year of many more question marks. However, the second year included in this contract is indicative of a further commitment by the Phils to the soon to be 31-year-old as their starting shortstop for at least the near future.
Re-signing Gregorius is also a pivotal move for the rest of the day-to-day lineup. The Phillies had been seeking out either his return or the addition of another shortstop as they were namely rumored to be interested in multi-time Gold Glover Andrelton Simmons before his signing by the Twins earlier this week. In adding an everyday shortstop, the Phils are able to secure Jean Segura at second base, allowing Scott Kingery to assume a role in the outfield, where he is better statistically (both by Statcast Outs Above Average and Fangraphs Ultimate Zone Rating measures), though his versatility continues to be a factor if anyone in the lineup falters or falls to the injury bug.
On Gregorius’s side of things, due to the 2-year length of this deal this will be the largest contract he has signed in his career. He is also the only high-profile shortstop on the market to receive a multi-year deal as Simmons, Marcus Semien and Freddy Galvis all signed for just one year with their respective teams, though Semien will receive a larger sum of $18 million for his duties with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021.
Those three will also be added to what expects to be a deep free agent class at shortstop in 2021. Not only are the three above players going to be on the market, but barring any contract extensions so will Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trevor Story, all of whom are former All-Stars. Gregorius will avoid that saturated market in the 2021-2022 off-season with his 2-year commitment to the Phillies.
Gregorius’s second tour of duty with the Phillies shapes out to seem beneficial for both parties. In order to add him back onto the 40-man roster, Rule 5 selected shortstop Kyle Holder was also traded to the Cincinnati Reds for cash.