Now that the Yankees’ season is over, their front office is left to ponder the futures of many of the club’s players, including shortstop Didi Gregorius. While Gregorius has largely been an above-average to excellent contributor since the Yankees acquired him entering 2015, the two sides’ five-year partnership may be on the verge of ending. Gregorius is weeks from a trip to free agency, where he’s easily slated to be the highest-upside shortstop available. The question, if Gregorius does reach the open market, is whether he’ll come with a qualifying offer attached.
The 29-year-old Gregorius would’ve been a slam dunk for a $17.8MM QO were he coming off a similar season to the ones he posted from 2017-18. Gregorius was a 4.0-fWAR player in each of those years, though he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow after the latter of those campaigns. As a result, Gregorius didn’t debut this year until June 7. When Gregorius returned, he wasn’t the same player the Yankees grew accustomed to seeing in the previous two seasons. He wound up playing just about half the season (82 games) and slashing a mediocre .238/.276/.441 in 344 plate appearances. The power outburst Gregorius enjoyed from 2017-18 remained intact, evidenced by his 16 home runs and his .204 ISO, yet he still only managed an 84 wRC+ (he checked in at 122 just a year ago).
In light of his downtick in production this season, it’s fair to wonder whether the Yankees will qualify Gregorius and risk paying him a hefty sum for 2020. They did bring Gregorius back for a pricey $11.75MM in the wake of his TJ surgery last year, but as mentioned, he was coming off a much stronger season at the time. Now, it’s easy to imagine Gregorius accepting a much more expensive QO and trying for a bounce-back year in New York. Doing so would take a significant chunk out of the luxury tax-minded Yankees’ spending room for a position to which the club arguably doesn’t need to allocate a ton of financial resources. The Yankees could let Gregorius walk, plug Gleyber Torres in at short and use DJ LeMahieu at second. Alternatively, if the Yankees really want to go for a bold strike after yet another season without a World Series title, they could trade for someone like Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, keep Torres at second and continue to move the versatile LeMahieu around the infield.
Regardless of whether Lindor’s a realistic trade target for the Yankees, what should they do with Gregorius in the next couple weeks? Is he worth taking a chance on via QO, or should general manager Brian Cashman let him hit the market unfettered?
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