There were no chants outside Citizens Bank Park last summer urging the Phillies to retain Didi Gregorius or a flurry of social-media posts mandating the team to #SignDidi. Instead, the shortstop’s free-agency seemed to take a backseat to the attention focused on J.T. Realmuto.
So perhaps it was fitting that a day after the Phillies officially squared away Realmuto, they signed Gregorius to a two-year contract worth $28 million. Gregorius scored the contract he wanted — a multi-year deal after playing last season on a one-year pact — and did it without much of a campaign behind him. A source said the deal is pending a physical.
Gregorius played all 60 games last season, hitting .284 with a .827 OPS. He turns 31 on Feb. 18, a day after the team’s first scheduled spring workout for pitchers and catchers.
“I loved playing with these guys,” Gregorius said after last season. “They were a great group of guys. I had fun playing the game the right way with these guys.”
The Phillies have committed $152.5 million this winter to free agents, more than all but one other team. They signed Realmuto Friday to a five-year contract worth $115.5 million as they retained both of their top free agents, a scenario that seemed unlikely when the season ended.
The team’s tone at the start of the offseason was quite pessimistic, seeming to set the stage for a winter of restricted spending. But that changed in December when Dave Dombrowski was hired as president of baseball operations.
The new leader of the team’s baseball operations said earlier this month that the Phillies are thinking about winning in 2021. And they’ll try to do that with virtually the same lineup they had last season, which they finished four-games below .500 and in third place.
But the bullpen — which finished last season as baseball’s worst in 90 years — has seen the addition of Archie Bradley and a group of low-risk arms. They added depth to their rotation on Friday by signing veteran Matt Moore, a move that required trading Cole Irvin on Saturday to Oakland to create room on the 40-man roster. Kyle Holder, an infielder selected in December’s Rule 5 draft who has yet to play above double A, was traded to Cincinnati to make room on the roster for Gregorius.
The offense might look the same as last year’s lineup, but it was hardly the reason the Phillies missed the postseason for a ninth-straight year. They scored the sixth-most runs in baseball, had the seventh-best OPS, and the ninth-best batting average. They had seven hitters — including Gregorius — post an OPS better than league average.
Since 2017, Gregorius has the 10th-best WAR among all shortstops, fourth-best fielding percentage, fifth-most home runs, sixth-most RBIs, and 11th-highest OPS.
He was a sound defender last season and strong clubhouse presence, which was one of the reasons the Phillies were attracted to him before last season. Joe Girardi, who managed Gregorius with the Yankees, urged the front office to bring him to Philadelphia.
The Phillies engaged this winter with other free-agent shortstops, but the market dried quickly this week. Freddy Galvis, Andrelton Simmons, and Marcus Semien all agreed to one-year deals on Tuesday within a matter of hours. Only Semien, who had a .840 OPS over the last two seasons in Oakland, was graded higher than Gregorius in ESPN’s free-agent rankings. The Phillies watched the market move without them yet still came away with a prize.
With Gregorius at shortstop, the Phillies will have to find a place for Scott Kingery. It’s unlikely Kingery will start at second base over Jean Segura but instead compete with Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn for the centerfield job. But that could all be moot if the National League again uses a designated hitter or if Dombrowski has more moves lined up before camp begins.
For now, the Phillies have their shortstop. It was an offseason quest to solidify the position and it led them Saturday to bringing back their own player. Gregorius scored the contract he wanted and the Phillies landed their shortstop. The only thing missing was a hashtag.