CLEARWATER, Fla. – One minus two under the basic rules of math leaves you with a negative. The Phillies, however, believe they came up with a bright idea to improve their infield by adding one shortstop while subtracting a second baseman and a third baseman during the offseason.
Now they just have to figure out where to put the guy who played the most games at shortstop for them two years ago and the guy who played the most games at shortstop for them last season because they can no longer put either one at shortstop in 2020.
If this all seems more like advanced calculus than simple arithmetic, we apologize.
“It’s somewhat tricky,” manager Joe Girardi said Monday after his team went through its first full-squad workout of spring training at the Carpenter Complex. “The great thing is we have 37 days to figure this out.”
Time is on their side and on Day 1 of infield drills, it was Jean Segura, last year’s shortstop, at third base and Scott Kingery, the team’s primary shortstop two years ago, at second base. Didi Gregorius, the Phillies’ $14 million free-agent addition in the offseason, was at shortstop.
“We’re going to sit down and talk about that,” Girardi said. “[Segura] is comfortable at second, so maybe he doesn’t need as many reps at second and we’re trying to figure out who is going to play third and who is going to play second. Segura looked good at third today. He almost looks really natural there because of the different arm angles he’s accustomed to throwing with. He was having fun out there.”
There are more than a few twists to the situation, which could add to the degree of difficulty when Girardi and his coaching staff make their final decisions about who’s on third and who’s on second. We can tell you Rhys Hoskins is on first and that must be great news to Lou Costello.
In his only season as a regular second baseman with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, Segura led the National League with 203 hits while setting career highs in batting average (.319), doubles (41), home runs (20), runs (102), RBIs (64) and OPS (.867). According to fangraphs.com, he ranked 12th defensively at second base that year.
Another thing to consider is that Kingery went through the minor leagues as a second baseman and the scouting report was that he would become an elite fielder at the position. Circumstances and Cesar Hernandez forced Kingery to mostly play elsewhere (shortstop, third base, center field) during his first two big-league seasons, but this could be a good time to find him a permanent position, so why not place him where he could one day win a Gold Glove?
The future factor is that Alec Bohm, the organization’s top position-player prospect is a third baseman and his arrival time to the big leagues could come at some point this season. That, however, does not need to be resolved in spring training.
For his part, Segura said he’d be willing to play third base even though he has never played that position in his life.
“It’s about the team,” Segura said. “At the end of the day, I work for the Phillies. I play for the Phillies, so if the Phillies want me to catch, I’ll catch.”
They don’t want him to catch, but they might want him to play third base, and an infield that includes Segura, Gregorius, Kingery, and Hoskins should be better than the one that featured Hernandez as the primary second baseman and Maikel Franco as the primary third baseman each of the past five seasons.
From 2016 to 2018, Gregorius ranked among the top shortstops in home runs (fourth with 72), RBIs (seventh with 243), fangraphs WAR (seventh at 11.6), and was considered one of the premier defenders at his position. Tommy John surgery limited him to 82 games last year. Gregorius turns 30 on Tuesday and, if healthy, he should have some good years ahead.
Kingery, playing at either second base or third base, should be an upgrade defensively and he likely will give the Phillies more power production than they had at those positions with Franco and Hernandez.
If you’re willing to dream, Bohm could make the Phillies a really powerful lineup if he lives up to expectations.
Something that should encourage the Phillies is that the infields of the three teams that finished ahead of them in the National League East last season are all in flux. Washington and Atlanta lost two of the best third basemen in the game when Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson departed via free agency.
The Mets’ Jeff McNeil, who is replacing Todd Frazier, is now the most dangerous third-base bat in the division, but he is a potential liability in the field. Either Segura or Kingery has a chance to be in the conversation for the second-best third baseman in the division.
Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies is the best second baseman in the division, but again Segura and Kingery are in the conversation for the second-best at the position within the division.
Hoskins, of course, needs to recover from his dreadful second half last season to make the infield really formidable. But in this embryonic stage of spring training, it sure appears as if the addition of a shortstop and the subtraction of a third baseman and second baseman is a positive equation for the Phillies.