The shortstop market has evaporated. A market that once had a lot of options now has, well, not a lot of them. Didi Gregorius is the last guy out there who would seem to represent a true upgrade on the free agent market.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported late on Tuesday night that the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies were both focusing on bringing Didi Gregorius into the fold. Two teams, both in need of a shortstop, and there’s only one option of the caliber of player they are looking at remaining in free agency.
The Phillies have gone out and shown that they are serious. Philadelphia recently signed J.T Realmuto to a 5-year contract worth $115,500,000. The Reds, on the other hand, have made one-and-a-half free agent signings this offseason – inking pitcher Edgar Garcia to a deal for $600,000, and signing Kyle Farmer to a split contract after non-tendering him in December. Realmuto’s deal is worth more in one season than the entire National League Central division has spent in free agency all offseason combined.
The offseason, however, isn’t over. And the Reds are reportedly trying to get something done to bring Didi Gregorius into Cincinnati. But, it appears that they’ve tried to get other shortstops to sign this offseason and come up short. From Mark Sheldon of Reds.com:
We’ve had competitive offers out to people that we’ve liked,” general manager Nick Krall told MLB.com on Wednesday. “I think we’ve been in a lot of different markets to find players that fit our club. We’ve ended up losing out on some guys. Some things didn’t go the way we were looking for.
They’re trying. But so far, they’ve failed to meet their stated goals. The market has been set. Andrelton Simmons signed a 1-year deal for $10,500,000. Marcus Semien signed a 1-year deal for $18,000,000. Didi Gregorius falls in line with those two players. If the Reds want to bring him in, it’s going to cost them somewhere in that range per year. Whether it’s going to require more than a 1-year offer at those prices per year is a question we don’t really know the answer to.
In the 2020 season, Didi Gregorius hit .284/.339/.488 in 60 games with the Phillies. He walked 15 times, struck out just 28 times, and homered 10 times. It was a nice rebound season after a disappointing 2019 where he hit just .238/.276/.441 in 82 games as he returned from having Tommy John surgery, and it was in line – rate wise, with what he hit in 2018 with the New York Yankees (124 OPS+ in 2018, 119 OPS+ in 2020).
The Marcels projection system, which can be found on the players pages at Baseball Reference, has a projection in 2021 for Didi Gregorius to hit .254/.315/.454 with 24 home runs. ZiPs, found at Fangraphs, projects a better outcome for Gregorius, with a .275/.321/.473 line that would include 22 home runs. Both of those lines represent huge upgrades over what is projected for any of the trio of Kyle Farmer, Jose Garcia, or Alex Blandino – who are the three internal options for Cincinnati at shortstop if they make no other moves.
The trade market is still there for exploration for Cincinnati if they need to go that route. But that route requires both cash to pay the incoming player, as well as player(s) to be traded in order to acquire someone. The Reds certainly have the prospects to make plenty of deals if they want to. At least to this point in time, though, they haven’t been able to make something happen. With less time until spring training starts, and a dwindling free agent market, they need to figure it out sooner rather than later if they want to meet the one publicly stated goal they made for the offseason.