Evaluating The Didi Gregorius Acquisition


The Yankees acquired their shortstop for 2014 and beyond on Friday morning in a three-way trade with the Diamondbacks and Tigers. They sent Shane Greene to Detroit, Detroit sent Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba to Arizona, and Arizona sent Mariekson Julius Gregorius (who goes by Didi) to New York. 

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Gregorius, a 24-year-old left-handed hitting shortstop, has a .243/.313/.366 line in 724 Major League plate appearances. That comes out to an 84 wRC+, almost average for a shortstop. The defensive metrics through 1521.1 innings at shortstop say he’s roughly a league average defender at the position. UZR sits at -3.6 while DRS is exactly at 0. The scouting reports, however, suggest that he is clearly an above average defender at the position so the metrics are likely underrating him based on the few data points collected over just 2 seasons.

This is a league average player with upside. As Dave Cameron notes, Gregorius could be Elvis Andrus lite. Of course, Gregorius requires nowhere near the financial commitment of Andrus. Gregorius has 5 years of team control remaining although he will qualify as a Super 2 player and receive an extra year of arbitration eligibility. Still, 5 years of reduced prices for a league average shortstop in the prime of his career is tremendous value. Additionally, Gregorius is trying to improve upon the -2.3 fWAR that Yankee shortstops accumulated in 2013. It’s very hard  not to improve on that mark.

The Yankees did have to surrender sinker/slider guy Shane Greene who was great down the stretch in 2013. He pitched better in the majors across 78.2 innings than he ever had in the minors. The strikeout rate was up to 23.5% while the turbo-sinker generated a 50% groundball rate. He still struggled to get lefties out. As a 26 year old, that screams small sample size fluke and likely regression. Also, starting pitching is currently easier to find than even average shortstop play. This move portends at least one free agent pitcher (most likely 2) signing with the Yankees and the change in projected wins should be an upgrade for the team. For instance, Brandon McCarthy and Gregorius should produce more wins in 2014 than Greene and Stephen Drew. Or the duo of Hiroki Kuroda and Gregorious will be better in 2014 than Greene and Jed Lowrie.

Gregorius for Greene is another shrewd move for Brian Cashman. League average shortstops don’t grow on trees (ask the Mets) and there is a surplus of available pitching to patch the loss of Greene in the rotation. This trade was necessary.