Ranking the Chances for Every MLB Team to Land Didi Gregorius in Free Agency
The MLB world is already buzzing about next winter's free-agent class, which could include shortstops Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Carlos Correa.
Teams in need of shortstop help this offseason have a significantly thinner pool of talent to pick from.
Marcus Semien finished third in AL MVP voting in 2019, but after a disappointing season, he looks like a prime candidate for a one-year, prove-it deal.
That's exactly the position Didi Gregorius found himself in last winter when he inked a one-year, $14 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. And after posting a 119 OPS+ with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 60 games, he is set to cash in with a multiyear pact.
With free agency heating up, let's look at how all 30 teams stack up as landing spots for Gregorius based on their financial flexibility, roster needs and status as contenders.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are thin on building blocks, but they still might have one in shortstop Kevin Newman. He's just a year removed from a 3.1-WAR rookie season, and he'll get every opportunity to prove that wasn't a fluke.
29. Kansas City Royals
With speedy Adalberto Mondesi manning shortstop and top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. the potential future face of the franchise, shortstop does not look like a priority for a Royals team that has been seeking veteran upgrades (Carlos Santana, Mike Minor) this winter.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks
Slick-fielding Nick Ahmed signed a four-year, $32.5 million extension in February, and Ketel Marte is penciled into the second base job, leaving the middle infield as one of the few strengths on a disappointing Arizona roster.
27. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners will continue to be patient with former top prospect J.P. Crawford, who posted a career-high 92 OPS+ and won a Gold Glove Award in 2020. If they spend this offseason, it will likely be on pitching.
26. Baltimore Orioles
With Jose Iglesias traded to the Los Angeles Angels and Hanser Alberto non-tendered, the O's will need to address the middle infield. A bargain addition like Freddy Galvis is more likely than convincing Gregorius to sign on with a rebuild.
25. Tampa Bay Rays
Brandon Lowe and Willy Adames comprise one of baseball's best young middle infields, and the Tampa Bay farm system is loaded with middle infield talent behind them with Wander Franco, Vidal Brujan and Xavier Edwards all rising the ranks. If they spend, it won't be on a shortstop.
24. Texas Rangers
The Rangers are looking to slash payroll this offseason, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, and they still owe incumbent middle infielders Rougned Odor (two years, $24.7 million) and Elvis Andrus (two years, $28.5 million) a ton of money. They will be hunting for bargains, so signing Gregorius doesn't fit their approach.
23. Detroit Tigers
Rookie standout Willi Castro struggled defensively at shortstop (-7 DRS, -7.1 UZR/150) and fits best at second base long term, so Detroit has a void at shortstop. The Tigers have begun one of the more promising rebuilds, but it's tough to convince a player who will be 31 in February to join a non-contender.
No Clear Fit
22. Colorado Rockies
It's not out of the question to think the Rockies would trade Story before he hits free agency next offseason. Until then, Gregorius doesn't make much sense, and even then, they have a number of in-house options to replace Story.
21. Atlanta Braves
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of huge seasons from Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna and several others in the Atlanta lineup, Dansby Swanson assembled a career year. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft posted a career-high 110 OPS+ with 15 doubles and 10 home runs to garner some down-ballot MVP support. He's controllable through 2022, so shortstop is set in Atlanta.
20. St. Louis Cardinals
The decision to decline a $12.5 million club option on Kolten Wong is a good indication the Cardinals do not plan to add any significant contracts this offseason. Paul DeJong is established at shortstop, so a Gregorius move to St. Louis would also have to come with a position change.
19. Washington Nationals
The Nationals added Starlin Castro to fill a utility role across the infield last offseason, and perhaps they would consider a similar approach with Gregorius. However, with Trea Turner entrenched as the everyday shortstop, there might not be enough playing time at his natural position to convince Gregorius to sign.
18. San Diego Padres
With Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado across the infield, the Padres don't make much sense as a landing spot. In theory, they could sign Gregorius to play second base and use Cronenworth in a super-utility role, but their focus will likely be on shoring up the starting rotation and the back of the bullpen.
17. Chicago White Sox
Tim Anderson's emergence and Nick Madrigal's arrival give the White Sox their middle infield of the present and future, and there are better options than Gregorius to fill the DH void if they add a hitter.
16. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels addressed Andrelton Simmons' free agency by trading for Iglesias, who hit .373 with 17 doubles in 150 plate appearances with the Orioles last year. David Fletcher could also see time at shortstop when he's not playing second base, while Franklin Barreto and Luis Rengifo are also in the mix for middle infield innings. It's time for the Angels to focus on pitching additions.
15. Minnesota Twins
With Jorge Polanco signed through 2025 (vesting and club options in the final two years) and top prospect Royce Lewis waiting in the wings, shortstop is covered in Minnesota. There could be interest if Gregorius would accept a super-utility role, as the Twins are looking to replace free-agent Marwin Gonzalez, but that seems unlikely if starting shortstop jobs are on the table.
14. Houston Astros
A fit here is contingent on the Astros trading Correa, a possibility briefly floated earlier this offseason. No movement has occurred on that front, but if Houston flips him for prospects a year away from free agency, a contending Astros team would no doubt immediately search for a productive replacement.
13. Boston Red Sox
Gregorius and Xander Bogaerts shared the infield for Team Netherlands in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, with Bogaerts shifting to third base. In Boston, one of them would need to move to second base, and it would likely have to be Gregorius, as Bogaerts is an established star on a long-term contract. It's a stretch, but it's not impossible.
12. New York Mets
It's easy to envision a scenario in which the Mets add Gregorius, shift Andres Gimenez to the bench and move Amed Rosario into a utility role, where he sees some time in the outfield. It's also easy to envision Gregorius being relatively far down their list of priorities as they chase some of the market's biggest names.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers will need to replace the versatile Enrique Hernandez if they don't re-sign him, and if any team is going to sell Gregorius on a utility role, it will be the defending champs. The New York Yankees brought DJ LeMahieu into a similar situation in 2019, and it was actually an injured Gregorius who opened the door for him to see regular playing time. He would also provide the Dodgers with a contingency plan if Seager walks in free agency next offseason.
10. Chicago Cubs
This is a similar situation to that of the Dodgers. Baez is destined for free agency after the upcoming season, and Gregorius would give the team a backup plan at shortstop while he gets regular time in a utility role in 2021. He could platoon with Nico Hoerner at second base while he continues to settle in and could man third base if Kris Bryant plays in the outfield or is traded.
9. Cleveland Indians
The inevitable Lindor trade does not mean the Indians are waving the white flag in 2021. In fact, with a rock-solid starting rotation, they should still be a factor in the AL Central and wild-card pictures even without the face of the franchise. With that in mind, they could sign Gregorius for less than the projected $19 million Lindor is set to earn in arbitration and still save money.
8. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have generally shied from the deep end of the free-agency pool, but they have made a few notable exceptions over the years. Orlando Arcia's stalled development has left shortstop as a glaring hole the past few seasons, and Gregorius could be a real difference-maker for a team on the fringe of contention.
7. New York Yankees
It doesn't sound like Gregorius plans on a reunion with the New York Yankees.
Gregorius told WFAN radio:
"I don't think they'll want me back in New York, to be honest right now. I think Gleyber Torres is your shortstop. It's just the one year, and from my understanding, he was hurt for some of it too. Once you get hurt, you take a step back on everything. If he comes back next year fully prepared and ready to go, everything should work smoothly and everything will be fine."
However, if DJ LeMahieu signs elsewhere, that could quickly change.
In 1,132.1 innings at shortstop, Torres has struggled from a defensive metrics standpoint (-12 DRS, -10.7 UZR/150), and a move back to second base makes sense if LeMahieu leaves.
Before missing significant time in 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Gregorius posted a 104 OPS+ while averaging 26 doubles, 20 home runs, 75 RBI and 3.6 WAR in his first four seasons in the Bronx.
6. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are likely one year and $15.2 million away from the end of the Brandon Crawford era, as he wraps up a six-year, $75 million contract.
The 33-year-old is coming off a bounce-back year in 2020, but the rebuilding club is still likely to go in a different direction.
Top prospect Marco Luciano represents the future at shortstop and has a chance to be a bona fide superstar. He's still just 19 years old with 47 professional games played, though, so it will likely be years before he reaches the majors.
Gregorius could be the perfect stopgap for a team in transition, providing a veteran presence in the clubhouse and a powerful bat in the middle of a young lineup.
5. Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins may have their middle infield of the future in Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm.
However, neither of those players looked anything close to ready for an everyday MLB job in 2020, and counting on them to hold one down in 2021 might be wishful thinking.
Miguel Rojas quietly had an excellent season, hitting .304/.392/.496 with 15 extra-base hits in 143 plate appearances, but he'll be 32 years old in February and is not a long-term piece.
A surprise postseason appearance could be enough to convince the Miami front office to take a more aggressive approach to this offseason, and Gregorius would be a huge upgrade while the roster pieces continue to fall into place.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays were serious enough in their pursuit of Gregorius last offseason that they looped in incumbent shortstop Bo Bichette on the team's interest.
"It was presented to me as, 'We're going after Didi; don't worry, we've already told him you're our shortstop,'" Bichette told reporters last offseason. "I'd imagine that's probably a reason why he didn't come here. But at the same time, there's definitely a certain type of player of a certain type of stature that I'd be definitely willing to switch positions for."
With the Blue Jays improving from 67-95 (.414) in 2019 to 32-28 (.533) in 2020, perhaps they are a more attractive destination this winter.
The most likely defensive alignment would have Bichette shifting to second base and Cavan Biggio moving to third base, assuming Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is once again penciled in at first base.
The front office is exploring all avenues to improve this winter, and Gregorius is a realistic target once again.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
After Gregorius' terrific 2020 season on a one-year, $14 million contract, a return to the Philadelphia Phillies is still very much on the table.
As it stands, Jean Segura will likely shift back to shortstop, and Scott Kingery will be the team's primary second baseman. However, Segura is a potential trade candidate, per FanSided's Robert Murray.
Moving him would open things up both financially and positionally for a reunion with Gregorius.
They have more pressing needs, including re-signing or replacing J.T. Realmuto behind the plate, rebuilding the bullpen, upgrading in center field and adding a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Still, re-signing Gregorius would make them a better team in 2021, and they are clearly in win-now mode.
2. Oakland Athletics
If the Oakland Athletics are going to splurge, it won't be for anyone who's likely to command north of $20 million annually. That's just not how they operate.
However, at the three-year, $39 million figure MLB Trade Rumors predicted, they could make a run at signing Gregorius to shore up a glaring hole at shortstop.
After finishing third in AL MVP voting in 2019, Semien took a huge step backward during the shortened season, and he stands as one of the market's more perplexing free agents.
Semien earned $13 million in arbitration last year, so replacing him with Gregorius at the projected $13 million average annual value would not require any payroll expansion.
There's no clear in-house replacement with Barreto traded and prospect Nick Allen still at least a year away, so something needs to be done at shortstop.
1. Cincinnati Reds
Back to where it all began.
The Cincinnati Reds signed Didi Gregorius as a 17-year-old international free agent on Aug. 6, 2007, and he made his MLB debut with the team as a September call-up in 2012.
That offseason, the Reds traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team, nine-player deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.
In the years since, the Reds have used Zack Cozart, Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza and Galvis at shortstop, but they have a glaring hole.
After signing Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos to matching four-year, $64 million contracts last offseason, the front office might be hesitant to spend big again on another veteran bat.
However, it's a hole on a team with a chance to contend, and Gregorius will likely come in at a lower price point in an offseason of penny-pinching.