Despite the Yankees overcrowded infield and uncertainty of how far over the luxury tax threshold the organization is willing to go, Brian Cashman continued to talk Didi Gregorius’ representatives at the recent General Managers Meetings.
Perhaps Yankees GM Brian Cashman is merely being thorough — and the possibility remains that if Didi Gregorius isn’t offered a multi-year deal worth upwards of $13.4 million AAV (as estimated by Sportrac), the Yanks would be willing to bring back their knight for a prove-it year, far less than the $17.8 million qualifying offer.
I mean, that’s the only reason I can fathom Cashman continuing dialogue with Gregorius’ agent. Otherwise, if the Yanks were genuinely comfortable with Gregorius, the QO would have been extended — especially because of the attached draft pick compensation.
But with most upper-echelon starting pitchers expected to fetch at least $22-25 million per season, New York was likely concerned Didi would take the QO and thereby cut into whatever payroll number Hal Steinbrenner has set this winter.
If the recent outcome of the postseason proved anything, it’s that rollercoaster starting pitching overexposes even the best bullpens. Therefore, the Yankees must sign at least one stellar arm.
After only 82 games played following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Didi was naturally rusty. However, in the ALDS versus Minnesota, he went 4-for-10 with a home run and six RBIs in 12 plate appearances. For a moment, visions of 2018 Didi ran through our heads.
But then the ALCS happened, and with it, Gregorius limped to a 5-for-23 showing, featuring one double, three strikeouts and nothing else in 23 at-bats. While Didi wasn’t alone in his struggles versus the Astros, he perhaps, had the most to prove — that the 2020 Yankees still needed their shortstop of the past five seasons.
Yet for all the good Didi did in pinstripes since Derek Jeter’s retirement, a lackluster half a season of production when compared to the breakout campaigns of D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela made Gregorius expendable.
However, if Cashman can re-sign Gregorius for one-year, at, or below that $13.4M — it’ll further complicate the infield situation, but it also lessens the load on Luke Voit and Mike Ford going into Spring Training.
Naturally, Cashman is holding his cards close to the vest, telling Dan Martin of the NY Post:
“I can’t tell you it’s less likely or more likely… [Gregorius] has been a great player for us,’’ Cashman said. “He’s a free agent now. There’s competition for his services. We’ll continue to engage and see if we can continue the relationship or not. I can’t predict it.”
While Voit should return to some semblance of his former home run hitting self, before sustaining a sports hernia, Ford only has 50 big league games under his belt. With Didi back in the fold for at least one more go-around, the Yanks’ are stronger with LeMahieu at first base, Voit as the DH, Giancarlo Stanton in left field and Ford coming off the bench.
Despite a cryptic tweet, Gregorius sent out on Nov. 14, he did say that he wanted to stay to New York following the ALCS Game 6 defeat. Even then, with at least half a dozen teams in the NL alone, in need of a power-hitting shortstop, I’d be surprised if Didi is re-signed by the Yankees.