Yankees Gregorius has earned his due as shortstop fixture

Didi Gregorius (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Didi Gregorius (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Yankees lost an irreplaceable shortstop in 2014. Or so most of us thought. But maybe we didn’t realize the torch had been passed to a new generation.

When Yankees great and future Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter, hit that blooper over second base in his final at-bat for a walk-off win, it would be fair to say most fans believed his departure from the team would leave a void in the infield for years to come.

To fill the vacancy, Brian Cashman completed a complicated three-way deal on December 5, 2014.

According to Baseball Reference, Gregorius was traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees sent Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers. The Detroit Tigers sent Domingo Leyba (minors) and Robbie Ray to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The deal came about at a time when Jeter was still fresh in the mind of fans, and the discussion immediately took the course of Gregorius as a replacement for the Yankees icon.

Expectations seemed to settle on a “We’ll take what we can get ” approach as Spring Training for the 2015 season began, and the spotlight drifted away in favor of the ongoing saga of Alex Rodriguez.

Gregorius went on to play in all but seven games that season, putting up so-so but promising numbers, batting .265 with nine home runs and 56 RBI.

The diagnosis during the following off season called for something like, “tremendous upside, next season will be crucial regarding his development as a major league talent.”

Gregorius responded with an All-Star like season surprising everyone with a jolt of power (20 home runs) and production (70 runs driven in) while upping his hit total to 155 for the season. Moreover, he handled all but fifteen of his 575 chances at shortstop, making all the plays he was expected to make.

In many ways, it was a coming of age season for the 27-year-old player from the Netherlands. And the Yankees, seeing his upside, only expected Gregorius to get better this season.

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With a thirst for playing in the World Baseball Classic to represent his Motherland, Gregorius chose to do so and was injured, forcing him to miss the entire first month of the season. Now, Yankees fans can only lament as to what his 2017 season would have been with that lost month included.

Gregorius is carrying a .837 OPS with 17 home runs, 53 RBI, and a batting average that is now over .300. He’s been the most consistent hitter on the team, and he keeps getting better as the season moves forward.

Moreover, along with Brett Gardner, he’s the only source of left-handed power the Yankees have in their lineup and the only hole Brian Cashman couldn’t fill at the trade deadline (think Lucas Duda).

Nevertheless, Gregorius has become a mainstay of the team Cashman has put together. He’s not Derek Jeter, and all that talk has rightly gone away. He’s Didi Gregorius, who in his own right is carving out a career with the Yankees, which one day might warrant just as much attention as his predecessor.

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His debut as the 17,293rd player to don a major league uniform mostly went unnoticed, as did his first two seasons.

Not so much anymore now, though. And we can start to ask the question, where would the Yankees be without Didi Gregorius hitting seventh in their everyday lineup?