The Yankees put sentiment aside and did not extend a Qualifying Offer to Didi Gregorius. All things must pass, and this is a move the team had to make…
The Yankees, above all else, are in the entertainment business, with the operative word being business. Hence, the dismissal of a fan favorite.
Almost immediately after coming to the Yankees in a trade with the Texas Rangers, Didi Gregorius was thrust into the spotlight as the heir to the shortstop position that was vacated by Derek Jeter‘s retirement in 2014.
For the ensuing four years, Gregorius saw his numbers and reputation as quintessential Yankee climb, eventually emerging as his own man from behind the shadow of Jeter. Yankees fans gravitated toward his athletic abilities and “Oh, shucks, who me?” character.
But all things must pass, and after much (assumed) internal deliberation, the Yankees decided not to make a qualifying offer worth $17.8 million to Gregorius for his services in 2020. A shock – no, not quite.
Nevertheless, their decision leaves a hole on the left side of their infield – or maybe not as we’ll see later.
Yankees and Gregorius part ways
Effective immediately, Gregorius joins the Class of 2020 as a free agent. In the next day or so, any number of teams will be “linked” in the media as pursuers of Gregorius, but the Yankees are not likely to be one of them. Once you sign the separation papers, the divorce is all but final.
Already, there are reports the Cincinnatti Reds have targeted Gregorius as a free-agent acquisition.
As successful as the Yankees have been over the last two seasons, each with 100 wins or more, the team requires a facelift. Fans may feel disappointed, but that is the gist of where the Yankees are headed.
Yankees – internal replacements?
In theory, the Yankees don’t have to do anything to replace Didi Gregorius. They have Gleyber Torres, a converted shortstop to second-baseman, to move over to the left side of the infield.
DJ LeMahieu, who maintained duties at first, second, and third base for the team in 2019, can find a home at second base – and the team moves on.
But not so fast. The team is right-handed heavy, and in that way, at least, the loss of Gregorius will be felt.
Analytics – Meh
The imbalance may or may not make a difference to Brian Cashman as he assembles the 2020 team, or even to Aaron Boone if he decides to go with eight best on any given day.
The Yankees are an analytics-based team. But the information available today goes far beyond the standard and old definitions of lefty-righty pitching versus batters.
Any number of today’s left-handed hitters can hit left-handed pitching with authority. Exhibit A – is the Yankees own DJ LeMahieu, who batted .375 against lefties and .310 against righties.
Nevertheless, the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium draws attention to the advantage of a lefty like Gregorius. Brett Gardner found the knack in 2019 to hit his highest career home run total (28). But even Gardner is in the TBD zone as to whether or not he will return for one more go-around as a Yankee in 2020.
There’s only time to look forward
So, while the Yankees made the “right” move with Didi Gregorius – who, let’s face it – is not worth $18 for the coming season, the team has created the possibility of more changes to balance out their lineup.
This could, for instance, open up an expanded role at first base for Mike Ford, who hit 12 home runs and drove in 25 in only 143 plate appearances.
But we’ll need to wait and see. The business of baseball, as those who follow the game have learned, is rarely kind and sentimental. Yankees fans can hope that Didi Gregorius lands with a team like the Reds who can’t hurt the Yankees at all.
It was a good run, but all things must pass…