The Phillies could have options if they want to trade Didi Gregorius
The Philadelphia Phillies have never been a team that likes to go over the luxury tax, everybody knows that. John Middleton has held back this ball club for years by trying to save his money and not exceed the tax threshold. The MLB is currently in lockdown, which restricts any transactions, trades, and negations from taking place all around Major League Baseball.
If the Phillies really want to spend money and upgrade the team once post-lockout is here, they need to do everything they can to get off of Didi Gregorius and his pricy contract.
Gregorius had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2021, slashing just .209/.270/.370 at the plate, good for a .639 OPS. He hit 13 HRs and knocked in 54 RBIs, all while posting a .953 fielding percentage and a -10 defensive runs saved average, both career-lows.
It’s no surprise that Gregorius is regressing. The 31-year-old was a liability at the shortstop position in 2021, and it seemed like you could never count on him to get the big hit. The veteran shortstop is set to make $14.5 million in 2022, and will gain an extra $750,000 as an adjusted salary. He will take up $14 million of the team’s luxury tax budget unless the Phillies can find a team around the league that would be willing to take on his hefty contract.
Potential Phillies Upgrades
While Gregorius’ contract isn’t good by any means, there are still some teams out there that could be interested in acquiring the veteran shortstop. Here’s a few of them.
Cardinals: Paul DeJong
DeJong is set to make $6 million in 2022 and $9 million in 2023. He does have two club options with the Cardinals in 2024 ($12.5M, $2M buyout) and 2025 ($15M, $1M buyout). At 28-years-old, he has an extremely higher upside than Gregorius, and on a smaller contract.
DeJong struggled in 2021, hitting just .197/.284/.390, with 19 HRs and 45 RBIs. He has proven he can hit the baseball. In 2019, he slashed 30 HRs, 78 RBIs, and 31 doubles en route to being selected to his first All-Star game. What sticks out about DeJong is his defense. He’s posted a career .980 fielding percentage in five seasons with the Cardinals, with six defensive runs saved in 2021, and 24 in 2019.
DeJong might not be the flashiest hitter at the plate, but he’s shown potential in the early stages of his career. He’s coming off a tough season at the dish, but a Gregorius/DeJong swap would have to be considered by Dave Dombrowski if the deal was on the table.
Diamondbacks: Nick Ahmed
Nick Ahmed will make $17.75 million over the next two seasons ($7.75M in 2022, $10M in 2023), and is another defensive-minded shortstop the Phillies could take a look at. Ahmed made his MLB debut in 2014, and has been with the Arizona Diamondbacks his whole career. He had a .221 average at the plate in 129 games last season, with just five HRs and 38 RBIs .
Ahmed is an obvious struggle at the plate, but for a Phillies team that had a -54 defensive runs saved ratio in 2021 (a league-worst), sacrificing some offense for a great defensive shortstop might have to be the way to go. Ahmed had a fielding percentage of .981 in 2021, with four defensive runs saved. He’s had three career seasons with over 15 runs saved, showing that he can be a backbone to the left side of the infield. With Alec Bohm potentially back at third base next year as well, Ahmed would be a great fielding shortstop to put next to Bohm to help him grow.
The Emergence of Bryson Stott
What seems like a limited market for Gregorious isn’t as limited as you think. The Phillies don’t necessarily have to go out and get a shortstop in return for him, especially if there’s an option to take a flyer on a starting pitcher, outfielder, or reliever. If that was the case, Bryson Stott has proved down in the minor leagues, and the Arizona Fall League, that he is ready to play major league baseball.
The 24-year-old has a career line of .303/.439/.394 in Triple-A and had a fantastic fall season with the Peoria Javelinas. Stott hit .318/.445/.489 in the AFL with two HRs, 31 RBIs, and seven doubles in 26 games, all good for a .943 OPS. Stott posted a .974 fielding percentage with Peoria and has 1,322 career innings at the shortstop position in the minor leagues already. This kid is ready, and if the Phillies’ only way to get off of the Gregorious contract is acquiring a non-shortstop, Stott can fill that hole in the infield.
The Gregorius contract is without a doubt the biggest thing holding the Phillies back when it comes to throwing money at free agents. Set to make $14M and regressing in his game, the Phillies need to do *almost* whatever it takes to get Didi Gregorius’ contract out of their clubhouse.
Ring it. Go Phils.
Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports